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Three Eastern Plays 

With a terminal Essay on Suttee 

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"In Padmani he has created a great 
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Via Triumphalis 
Selected Poems 


Krishna Kumari 

Three Eastern Plays (with Theodosia 


Cithaeron Dialogues 

An Indian Day 

These Men Thy Friends 


The Other Side of the Medal 
A History of India (Benn's Sixpenny 


U T T E E 









" THIS last proof of the perfect unity of body and soul, this 
devotion beyond the grave, has been chosen by many of 
our Western critics as t our reproach; we differ from them 
in thinking of our * suttees ' not with pity, but with under- 
standing, respect, and love So far from being ashamed of 
our ' suttees/ we take a pride in them ; that is even true 
of the most ' progressive ' amongst us. It is very much 
like the tenderness which our children's children may some 
day feel for those of their race who were willing to throw 
away their lives for ' their country, right or wrong/ though 
the point of view may seem to us then, as it seems to so 
many of us already, evidence rather of generosity than 
balanced judgment . . . For some reason it has come to 
be believed that Sati must have been a man-made institu- 
tion l imposed on women by men for reasons of their own, 
that it is associated with feminine servility, and that it 
is peculiar to India. We shall see that these views are 
historically unsound. It is true that in aristocratic circles 
Sati became to some degree a social convention, and pressure 
was put on unwilling individuals, precisely as conscripts are 
even now. forced to suffer or die for other people's ideas; 
and from this point of view we cannot but be glad that it 
was prohibited by law in 1829 on the initiative of Raja 
Rammohun Roy. But now that nearly a century has passed, 
it should not be difficult to review the history and significance 
of Sati more dispassionately than was possible in the hour 
of controversy and the atmosphere of religious prejudice." 
ANANDA COOMARASWAMY, The Dance of Siva, published 1924, 

" The devotion of Alcestis ! Assuredly the heroic unselfish- 
ness of woman is a beautiful thing ; and I warrant you that, 
the gods helping me, Alcestis shall take no injury from my 
hands. But what of Admetus as a husband ? That is an 
aspect of the matter upon which our hymuists and our 

1 Author's note : "' Social conventions ' are rarely ' 
laws ' alone." 


congregations are little disposed to dwell, and they find 
no difficulty in ignoring it. It belongs to the skimble- 
skamble thinking which aids and is aided by faith in these 
monstrosities never to see anything steadily, never to see 
anything whole, but only such parts as please And your 
heroic tragedy is beloved for flattering this habit. But 
there are flatterers enough ; and, for my part, I intend to " 
give you much more of Admetus than of Alcestis He is 
much better for you. You are accustomed to rest with 
complacency on the picture of the self-sacrificing woman as 
the ideal of wives For herself she deserves such admiration, 
but for men and for society, no ! I should like to make 
you feel, and I mean to try, what a blind, barbarous, self- 
defeating selfishness is at the bottom of all this rapture about 
the devotion of woman. You will say that the women join 
in it. But what sort of women ? What are the women 
bred by our system of semi-humanity but the most dangerous 
of our slaves ? Prohibited by your generosity from acquiring 
intelligence except at the cost of respect, the poor creatures 
are so dull that they cannot even distinguish a friend from 
an enemy. Your magnanimous satirists have no difficulty 
in directing the almost unanimous resentment of the sex 
against whoever dares to see and show what mischief to 
themselves and to us results from their ill-governed virtue 
not less than from their ungoverned vice. I pity Alcestis, 
and I pity her husband. What would she make of him ? 
What does she make of him ? "A. W. VERRALL, Euripides 
the Rationalist, 118-19 (Euripides is supposed to be speaking), 

9 It is a strange commentary on the magnanimity of men 
that they should seek their deliverance through the self- 
sacrifice of their wives/' AKBAR, quoted by ABUL FAZL in 
Happy Sayings of His Majesty (Aw-i-Akban, Institutes of 
Akbar), Jarret, iii, 398. 


I SUPPOSE the impulse to write this book dates back 
to my shame and anger in India when men and women 
of my own race extolled suttee, and the amazement 
with which I first saw the memorials of Hindu kings, 
with the satis' crouching forms. But the impulse 
was slight, and would have slept but for a publisher's 
interest. Messrs. Allen & Unwin passed on to me 
questions asked about suttee by their reader when 
reporting on my share in Three Eastern Plays. Re- 
ceiving my reply, they suggested that I should write 
an Essay on Suttee. I said I would ; but the essay at 
once got out of hand and became a monograph. I 
found with surprise how slight was the attention 
given in any language, Indian or European, to the 
subject, and how loose and erroneous were many 
statements of even the best historians. Our ignorance 
of what is commonplace and pervading in the atmo- 
sphere and background of Indian thought justified! 
the slight terminal essay that appeared as an appendix 
to Three Eastern Plays ; but the necessity was 
unfortunate, for reviewers assumed an afterthought 
as a first cause, and said the plays were about or 
even against suttee. 


The late Lieutenant-Colonel C. Eckford Luard, 
CJLE., helped me with discussion and information. 
His death was as heavy a loss as any that Indian 
scholarship has suffered in recent years, and to his 
friends a thing hard to be borne. 

The picture of Chitor is reproduced from Tod's 
Rajasthan, by courtesy of the Clarendon Press ; the 
other three illustrations are reproduced from Govern- 
ment of India publications, by courtesy of the High 
Commissioner for India. I acknowledge these favours 
gratefully. Part of Chapters VI to VIII appeared in 
the London and Edinburgh Quarterlies. 

Except when a misspelling was so well established 
that accuracy would have been pedantry, I have used 
the orthography accepted by scholars. But the 
authorities whom I quote made shots at transliteration 
which resulted in a wide range of variation. My 
printers, noting this, have been at pains to correct 
many of these mistakes ; and I have been too tolerant, 
when they have done this, to restore the false spelling 
of my original. 



















INDEX 159 











THE rite by which a Hindu widow became soft, 
" faithful/' had two forms : sahamarana, " dying in 
company with/' and anwnarawa, " dying in accord- 
ance witfy/' The latter was the term used when her 
lord died and was burned at a distance from her 
during a campaign perhaps, or when her own death 
was postponed because she was pregnant ; she was 
then burned with something that belonged to and 
represented her husband his shoes or turban or 
some piece of clothing. Sahamaratya and anumamna 
were sometimes called sahagamana, " going along 
with/' and anugamana. There were other names for 
the rite, local or less usual. Sat? is the term used 
of the woman, and never of the rite ; its application 
in the latter sense is modern and European. 

" We have not found the term exactly in any European 
document older than Sir C. Malet's letter of 1787 and Sir W. 
Jones's letter of the same year." * 

For' convenience, I intend to use throughout this 

* Sir H. Yule and A. C. Buniell, Hobson-Jobson, article " Suttee." 


book sail for the person who commits this form of 
ceremonial suicide, and the anglicized form " suttee " 
for the act itself. 

Anumam^a had its drawbacks in a land and age 
of rumours hastily accepted for truth. Instances are 
on record of widows hearing that their husbands 
had died while away from home and burning them- 
selves a few days before their safe return. It was 
forbidden to women of the Brahman caste, and, 
although this rule was freely transgressed, especially 
in Bengal, its existence was ascertained by the British 
Government, who prohibited this kind of suicide by 
Brahmanis in 1817, twelve years before suttee itself 
was prohibited altogether. 

Suttee is ancient ; but, as a Hindu rite, not of the 
greatest antiquity. The Rig-Veda very fully presents 
the funeral ceremonies of the Aryans, but contains 
only one or two lines that may, on a dubious twisting 
and loosening of their natural meaning, glance at 
suttee. The one line which was held to enjoin it 
clearly was shown by Professor Wilson x to have 
' been deliberately changed ; and Max Miiller says of 
it that it was " mangled, mistranslated, and mis- 
applied." 2 There was certainly suspicion of its 
untrustworthiness, if not full knowledge, long before 
European scholars revealed it, for, in the thirty 
years of vacillation before the British Government 

* See Essays and Lectures Chiefly on the Religion of the Hindus, by 
H. H. Wilson, 1862, li. 270-292. 


dared to suppress suttee, Hindu pundits were con- 
tinually asked for their opinion, and rarely cared 
to say more than that suttee was recommended, 
but not actually commanded, by their shastras. 
Rammohan Ray treated the alleged shastric support 
with a verbal respect that thinly veiled his con- 
tempt for it. 
The original text ran : 

Arohantu janayo yonwn agre 

(Let the mothers advance to the altar first ) 

By a change of two letters, of ogre to agneh, the 
genitive of agm, " fire/' the line became : 

Arohantu janayo yonim agneh 

(Let the mothers go into the womb of fire ) 

Max Miiller calls this celebrated change of text 
" perhaps the most flagrant instance of what can be 
done by an unscrupulous priesthood." l The tag, 
Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, comes to mind. 
Yet, to be fair, we should probably have to substitute 
for religio whatever is the Latin equivalent for 
" literary conscience." For, though the change from 
agre to agneh is almost certainly proved both by 
context and by reference to the early Hindu com* 
mentators on the Rig-Veda, yet in the uncontaminated 
passage the word yoni is used with a looseness of 

* Selected Essays on Language, Mythology, and Religion (1881), 
i- 335- 


meaning that a purist would dislike. That meaning 
is secondary and careless, like the meaning put upon 
nice, in " a nice cake " or "a nice girl." The man 
who changed agre to agneh was three parts pedant 
to one part bigot, and the change illustrates the, 
extent to which a thoroughly scholarly mind is pre- 
pared to go to get a satisfactory reading. 

The original text had no reference to widows or to 
suttee, but was an injunction laid on all the mothers 
present. G. U. Pope has a comment similar to Max 
Miiller's : " Few false readings have had consequences 
so fearful ! " x But widow-burning, though the com- 
ment is justified, cannot have been established by 
this change of text, but only encouraged. It must 
have had already a vogue which demanded that 
support in the earliest scriptures be found for it. 
And the change must have been a comparatively 
late one, for though the Atharva-Veda has texts 
enjoining suttee, in other sacred books, ancient but 
(like the Atharva-Veda) admittedly much later than 
the Rig-Veda, the examples of widow-burning cited 
are few and plainly exceptional. In the Mahdbhdrata, 
one of the two widows of Pandu is, after a lengthy 
argument between her and her co-wife as to which 
is entitled to the privilege, allowed as a high honour 
to share her husband's pyre. Four of Krishna's 
wives and four of Vasudeva's burned on their lord's 
death. But " after the great war in Kuru-kshetra 
1 Dubois (second edition, 1879), 180. 


none of the numerous royal ladies burned herself." x 
The Rdmdyana is free, from suttee. The lawgiver 
Manu, commending it^ _does_not i( commanjgLit. Such 
scriptural support as Hinduism gave the rite is mainly 
jn the much later Puranas, where we find the legend 
of Kali as sail, the faithful wife who slew^herself in 
grief for an insult to her lord Siva. The few instances 
in the Mahdbhdrata are later interpolations. " The 
much-abused Tantms forbid it." * 

When the attention of the British Government 
was first seriously drawn to the rite, it was so 
entrenched by centuries of performance that the 
enquiry as to whether Hindu scriptures enjoined it 
was irrelevant and useless. It was as well established 
as the habit of warfare in Christian Europe. Never- 
theless, the enquiry had a value, if only because it 
helped to encourage the Government at last to break 
through its timidity and past its promises of toleration 
for all religious rites. This rite was not only obviously 
immoral and wicked, it was also not essential to 


By the fourth century B.C. Alexander's soldiers 
found suttee prevalent in the Pan jab, and 

" that it was practised by the half -foreign city of Taxila 

1 Balfour, Cyclopaedia of Ind%a, article " Suttee/' 
* Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism . u. 168 


along with other startling customs, and that it also prevailed 
among the Kathaioi, who dwelt on the banks of the Ravi. 1 ' * 

Western scholars often ascribe suttee to " Scythian " 
influence. Thus Vincent Smith says : 

" The scanty evidence as to Taxilan institutions taken* 
as a whole suggests that the civilization of the people 
was compounded of various elements Babylonian, Iranian, 
Scythian and Vedic. Suttee probably was a Scythian rite 
introduced from Central Asia." 3 

And again : 

" There can be little doubt that the suttee rite was brought 
into India by early immigrants over the north-western 
passes," 3 

brought from what the author has just styled 

" tribes in Central and Western Asia, and even in Eastern 
Europe, who may be called Scythians in a general way." 

This " Scythian " theory is adopted by most writers 
who refer to suttee, following the Oxford History. 
But the theory dates back to Tod's famous Annals 
and Antiquities of Rajasthan. 

Herodotus 4 says that the Scythians, at the burial 
of their kings, used to kill, embalm, and bury in the 
barrow fifty youths on fifty horses, along with the 
king's cup-bearer, cook, groom, lackey, messenger, 
and " one of his concubines/' But there is only the 
slightest resemblance 5 between this holocaust of a 

1 Vincent A. Smith, Oxford History of India, 665, 
* Ibid., 62. 3 Ibid., 665. 4 iv. 71-73. 

5 An exception must be made for Rajasthan and adjacent 
territory, where male slaves were often burnt as well as female ones. 


king's entire range of possessions (golden vessels and 
trinkets and robes included) and Hindu suttee. There 
is a nearer resemblance between suttee and Thracian 
funeral rites. 

" Each man among them has several wives ; and no sooner 
does a man die than a sharp contest ensues among the wives 
upon the question which of them all the husband loved 
most tenderly. The friends of each eagerly plead on her 
behalf, and she to whom the honour- is adjudged, after 
receiving the praises both of men and women, is slain over 
the grave by the hand of her next of kin, and then buried 
with her husband. The others are sorely grieved, for nothing 
is considered such a disgrace/' * 

There is no evidence that suttee was introduced 
from " Scythia/' or from anywhere outside India 
introduced, that is, after the Vedic period, which is 
what the Oxford History implies. If it had been so 
introduced, it would have been under brahmanical 
sanction ; but the Brahmans, while presiding at the 
sacrifice and drawing fees from it and in every way 
supporting it, kept a memory that it was not a rite 
to which their own women were liable, and invented 
a text which, while enjoining it for other castes, 
forbade it to Brahmanis. Dubois writes in 1816 : 

" The Brahman women no longer continue the practice 
of burning themselves alive with the bodies of their husbands. 
This custom is relinquished to other castes, as well as many 
others which require the endurance of bodily pain.*' * 

1 Herodotus, v. 5 (translated by George Rawlinson) , 
Manners and Customs of the People of India (1879 edition), 174. 
Suttee is forbidden to Brahmanis in the Brhaddevata, which leaves 
it open for other castes. " With regard to the other castes, this 
law for women may be or may not be." 


Dubois' statement holds chiefly of Southern India, 
for Brahman women burnt freely enough in Bengal 
and Rajasthan to a much later date than 1816. Yet 
it is likely that the women of this caste did, even in 
Bengal and Rajasthan, enjoy some measure of im- 
munity from the rite. 

Suttee was a custom to glorify the warrior caste, 
and especially princes. It would have been strange 
if the Aryans when living in Central Asia had refrained 
from copying their neighbours " the Scythians," and 
yet, centuries later, when long settled in India, had 
imported the rite from a people now at least a 
thousand miles away. But, though we must reject 
this theory of a later borrowing, the mere, silence of 
the Rig-Veda must not be pressed so far as to be held 
to prove that suttee was unknown to, or even among, 
the Aryan invaders. Sir Charles Eliot states the 
utmost that those who assert that the rite existed in 
Vedic times are entitled to claim the evidence being 
against the claim, but not so conclusively as to make 
his qualified form of it impossible: 

' Even in the Vedic age the custom had been discontinued 
as barbarous " (i.e. it had been in vogue, was still a memory 
and perhaps an occasional practice). " But even at this 
period those who did not follow the Vedic customs may have 
killed widows with their husbands ; and later the invaders 
from Central Asia probably reinforced the usage." * 

In the Vedic funeral rites the widow lay by her 
husband on the pyre. But, immediately after the 

1 Hinduism and Buddhism, ii. 168. 


Arohantu janayo yonim agre 

(Let the mothers advance to the altar first), 

the hymn, continues with the exhortation : 

" Rise up, woman, come to the world of living beings ; 
thou sleepest nigh unto the lifeless. Come ; thou hast been 
associated with maternity through the husband by whom thy 
hand was formerly taken. 

" Taking his bow from the hand of the dead, that it may 
be to us for help. . . ." l 

As the widow descended from the pyre the dead 
man's friends took from his hand the symbol of his 
caste, whether Brahman, Kshatriya, or Vaisya (priest, 
warrior, or merchant) a piece of gold, a bow, or a 
jewel. The leader a of the Hindu party who asserted 
in the nineteenth century the Vedic sanction of suttee 
interpreted these words thus : 

" If the widow thus addressed has not made up her mind 
for her immolation, she obeys the call ; but should she be 
firm in her resolve, she consoles her friends and relatives 
and enters the fire " 3 

The plain interpretation of the text is that she returns 
to the world of the living ; and I suppose no scholar 
of repute would now maintain that suttee was a 
Vedic rite. 

The rite was almost certainly, in my judgment, 
indigenous to India, along with human sacrifice and 
other primitive cruelties, when the Aryans entered 

1 H. H. Wilson, Essays, li. 272 

* Raja Radhakanta Deb. See Wilson, Essays, n. 293-305 

3 Wilson, Essays, 297 


the land. They found it flourishing among the savage 
clans of Central India, the clans from whom they 
later borrowed the goddess Kali and a whole wilderness 
of malignant godlings and superstitions, and it was 
taken into Hinduism along with the people who 
tenaciously clung to it. Later invasions from Central 
Asia may have " reinforced the usage " ; the Rajputs, 
who practised suttee on such an awful scale and 
relinquished it so late and unwillingly who also 
often sacrificed male slaves on the pyres of their 
kings represent immigrations later 1 than the Aryan 
ones, and from more barbaric tribes. This fact allows 
for the entrance of the " Scythian " theory, but by 
a different door from that indicated by Vincent Smith. 
Widow-r&acrifice was ojice almost, universal. Grimm 
states 3 that it was a custom of the Scandinavian 
peoples ; the legend of Balder, in which Nanna 
ascends his pyre, kept a memory of it, as did the 
Norse versions of the Volsunga Saga, which make 
Brunhild a $aK. The rite was Slavonic also, and 

"the practice of burning the living widow with the corpse 
of the husband is stated to have been an ancient Indo- 
Germanic custom, based upon the belief that life in the next 
world is a reflex of this life." 3 

* Some at least two millenniums later. 

a Quoted by N. M. Penzer (1926), m Terminal Essay on Suttee, 
vol. iv of C. H Tawney's Ocean of Story I have drawn upon 
his summary of the evidence of the ancient, almost universal 
prevalence of widow-sacrifice, but I have supplemented it from 
many other sources. 

3 N. M. Penzer, Suttee, 255. 


In Greek legend, Evadne, wife of Capaneus, one of 
the Seven Against Thebes, burned with her husband ; 
some of the accounts of (Enone made her do the same 
with her false lover Paris, accounts which Tennyson 
adopted in his Death of (Enone, a poem coloured by 
Anglo-Indian accounts of suttee. We have seen it 
in Thrace, as well as in Scythia ; and the visitor to 
Luxor can see it still as it was practised in Ancient 
Egypt> the most humane (with the exception of 
Athens) of the countries of antiquity. The tomb of 
Amen-hetep II, the one king whose body is still 
in situ, has in an adjoining chamber to the one in 
which the king lies four embalmed bodies of slaughtered 
wives the guide switches on the electric light and 
reveals them huddled there. 

' Such customs, however, seem to have belonged to the 
early dynasties, and it is only with bloodthirsty rulers like 
Amen-hetep II that the old customs were revived." * 

Widow-sacrifice used to exist among the Tongans 
and Fijians and Maoris,* and in many African tribes. 
There were relics of it in the funeral custom of some 
American Indian tribes, which required the widow 
to lie beside her husband on the pyre, as in Vedic 
ritual, till the smoke began to be suffocating, when 
she might escape. In China re-marriage of widows 

i N. M Penzer, Suttee, 256. 

Old New Zealand, by a Pakeha Maori (F. E, Maning), 1863, 
218 ff. 


" was always looked upon as an act of unchastity, while 
those who committed suicide at their husband's death had 
honorary gateways . . . erected in their honour by Imperial 
command. " r 

In fact, the rite belongs to a barbaric stratum which 
once overlay the world, including India. That bar- 
baric stratum in India kept its first texture of fierce 
cruelty longest in the mountainous tract running 
across the centre of the land, from the Rajput fast- 
nesses to the wooded hills of Orissa and the rocky 
jungles where the Vindhyas crumble down in Bihar. 

To sum up : this relic of once widely spread savagery 
had sunk into desuetude among the Aryans, or their 
hymns would have contained clear and full mention 
of it the burning of the widow would hardly have 
been a less important and interesting incident than 
the bringing of the sacrificial butter or the holy 
&w&z-grass. The rite came in with tribes taken into 
Hinduism, and its performance became common ; 
and it survived till within living memory, practised 
by a people in many respects highly civilized and 
genuinely, though capriciously, humane. The Vedic 
religion so changed, from being an imaginative 
animism and nature-worship a brook which, though 
we need not exaggerate its depth or the purity of 
its waters, was at any rate open to the sunlight and 
air into a densely overgrown quag of polytheism, 
magic, and blood-stained superstition, that we need 

1 Penzer, Suttee. 


not wonder at finding the grossest cruelty ruling in 
the far-off descendants of a people once entitled to 
the praise of comparative gentleness. Other religions 
have suffered a similar change ; but I think that no 
religion, not even Christianity in its days of frantic 
bigotry and of massacre of heretics and witches, so 
completely changed to malignancy as Hinduism did. 
Both religions admittedly kept their islands of nobler 
belief and practice: the monastic orders during the 
long period when they were the most civilizing element 
in Europe, and the Indian forest-sages these have 
enriched both the social and personal ideals of man- 
kind. But there is very little in the official religions 
that does not depress the thinker who wishes to keep 
faith in his race. 



THE custom was " notorious and well established in 
the Panjab in the fourth century B.C./' I but we may 
take it 'that it was not confined to the Panjab. There 
is an almost unbroken chain of foreign reference to 
the rite, from Alexander's time to our own day; it 
includes Strabo, Propertius, St. Jerome, Marco Polo, 
and travellers from Mahommadan lands as well as 
Christian. From the sixteenth century to the early 
decades of the nineteenth we have many scores of 
accounts of suttee by eye-witnesses ; it was not an 
event that a visitor could for long escape noticing. 
Yet " the rite was never universal, either in all parts 
of India, nor was it ever regarded as obligatory on 
all widows/' a However, as Vincent Smith goes on 
to say, "the sacrifice was often, and especially in 
the case of princes, compulsory, so that scores or 
hundreds of women might be, and actually were, 
burnt at the funeral of a single Raja, with or without 
their consent." As Mr, Coomaraswamy absurdly puts 
it, " It is true that in aristocratic circles Sati became 
to some degree a social convention, and pressure was 

1 Oxford History of India, 665. * Ibid. 


put on unwilling individuals." * It is hard to think 
of it as anything but compulsory in certain parts of 
India but I shall return to this question. 

The rite was an apanage of rank, but was fostered 
.and spread by priestly influence. 

" It was introduced into Southern India with the brah- 
manical civilization, and was prevalent there chiefly in the 
strictly brahmanical kingdom of Vijayanagar and among 
the Mahrattas. In Malabar, the most primitive part of 
South India, the rite is forbidden/' a 

In Malabar a matriarchal system prevailed, which 
may account for the absence of the rite. 

The Marathas are generally included among those 
who practised suttee greatly, but this is a mistake. 
They rendered the rite a fluctuating and unsteady 
allegiance; perhaps the only Hindu principalities 
that attempted to prohibit it before the British 
prohibition were Maratha ones. In the eighteenth 
century suttee became fairly frequent at Poona, but 
even then it remained comparatively infrequent. The 
suttees at the death of Marathas of the higher rank 
are remarkably few. Only one wife of Sivaji 3 became 
sail, and one of Rajaram, his son. The masterful 
Queen of Raja Shahu was compelled to burn for 
political reasons, to get her out of the way. The 
main homes of the rite were the Ganges Valley, the 
Panjab, Rajasthan, and, in South India, Madura and 

1 The Dance of Siva> 92, * Hobson-Jobson, article ** Suttee/* 
3 Sivaji died in 1680, Rajaram in 1700, Shahu in 1749. 


The extent to which suttee prevailed in Central 
India especially is brought home by the innumerable 
sa^-stones. There is considerable variety in the 
form these memorials take. Many are just upstanding 
stones marked with a woman's hand, often a ver-, 
milioned hand. The sati, setting out to die, marked 
the lintel of her home with her hand, freshly stained 
with the red stain that decks the bride. Sometimes 
the stain was a saffron one, such as General Hervey 
found at Bikanir. 

" Each luckless woman was required, by way of sealing 
her * determination * to immolate herself, to place the palm 
of her right hand upon some yellow daub presented to her 
in a platter as she passed out, and to press it against the 
wall of the gateway, the hand-mark thus left being subse- 
quently cut out in the wall, or, as in some instances, a hand 
was fashioned in marble from the model afforded by the 
impression and fixed upon it." x 

Many of these hands still decorate houses. General 
Hervey, in 1879, counted thirty-seven that were still 
distinct on the Bikanir palace, where he saw many 
others that had faded or were too low down to be 
clearly seen. 

Stones marked with a woman's hand were erected 
where suttees occurred, and exist in thousands of 
villages still. Especially in the Maratha country, 
these stones sometimes carry the sculpture of two 
feet (the paduka], or of a foot and an arm. They are 
often marked with the sun and moon, to signify the 

* General Charles Hervey, Some Records of Crime (1892), i. 217 


eternal endurance of the memorial. In Mandi, a 
Himalayan Pan jab state, the sati's memorial is a 
cairn 1 on which the passer-by tosses his own con- 
tribution, to placate the ghost that is still at large. 
4n other Himalayan districts Kulu, for example 
cairns and sculptured stones stand side by side. 2 
In Gujarat also we sometimes have the mere cairn : 

' Unhewn stones, smeared with red-lead, or heaps . . . 
loosely thrown together/' 3 

In Bengal often nothing remains but a venerated 
patch of ground, without any stone. I knew one such 
in the jungles of ruined Vishnupur, a piece of slightly 
raised ground, uncultivated and believed to be 
uncultivable, known as Pati-ghatim-sati-kunda, " the 
firepit of the faithful wife who killed her lord/' * 
There is another midway between Bankura and 
Chhatna, a confused mass of rock called Sinduri- 
pdhdda, " Vermilion Hill." To the last place a 
blurred legend attaches, which I am satisfied is that 
of a half-forgotten suttee. 

But many memorials are more elaborate. At some 
shrines never, I think, in Bengal there is a larger 
stone or a small building engraved with the figure 
of the satis' lord on horseback, with spear and 

* G. T Vigne, Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo. 
a See Indian Antiquary, 1875, 64 

3 A. K Forbes, Ras Mala (1878 edition), 691. 

4 See " The Clouded Mirror " (Three Eastern Plays, by Edward 
and Theodosia Thompson) 


armour ; his satis are usually ranged below him. 
The commonest of the more pretentious funeral 
monuments are raised platforms beneath a stone 
canopy ; these are found throughout Northern India. 
On the platform is a stone whose sides are sometimes- 
embossed with the wedded life of the chieftain that 
it commemorates ; his wives are serving him, one 
sail walks before his horse with a fly-whisk, another 
(on another side) holds an umbrella over him. And 
so on. 

A few descriptions will further show the range of 
variation : 

" Engraved head-stones, either standing alone or covered 
by the pavilions called chuty^es, and not unfrequently 
temples of greater or less size which enclose an image of 
the Dev. The sculptured monuments are called jgaleeyos.' 
They bear a rude representation of the deceased warrior 
mounted upon his war-horse, or driving his chariot, according 
to the circumstances which may have attended his fall. 
The paleeyo of the Sutee is distinguished by a woman's hand 
adorned with marriage bracelets." * (In Gujarat.) 

" The deceased is also represented on the slab, riding on 
horseback, horse and man finely ornamented ; and in front 
of and behind this principal form, or in rows under it, are 
also engraved the figures, each with arms crossed over the 
bosom, of the poor creatures who became the dead man's 
suttees on the occasion." a (In Rajasthan.) 

" As a rule, a sculptured representation of the widow or 
widows who committed sail is carved on the stone memorial 
to the dead husband. . . . This type of memorial is generally 
known as a virakal or herorstone, and in Southern India 

t! * A. K. Forbes, Ras Mala (1856), 691. The Dev (literally, God) 
& the Hero whom the shrine commemorates. 
va C. R. W. Hervey, Some Records of Crime, i. 211. 



they appear to have been set up chiefly in honour of feudal 
chiefs and nobles of the Vijayanagar empire who were slam 
in battle or killed in some hunting expedition. Some of 
these memorials, however, were set up mainly in honour of 
those who committed sail, and these . . . are generally 
sculptured with a pointed pillar or post, from which projects 
a woman's right arm, bent upwards at the elbow. The 
hand is raised, with fingers erect, and a lime-fruit is usually 
shown placed between the thumb and forefinger. This is 
what is alluded to in the old inscriptions, where women are 
said to ' have given arm and hand ' . . ." x 

Mr. Longhurst reproduces examples of both kinds of 
Vijayanagar memorial. The mrdkal has an upper 
and a lower panel. The lower holds the Hero and his 
two satis, with an elephant (to show that the former 
was a man of rank) in charge of an attendant. The 
upper shows the three spirits arrived in Vishnu's 
Paradise ; they stand before the conch and discus, 
his emblems, which Garuda (his vehicle, the kite 
demigod) and Hanuman (the monkey-god, the atten- 
dant of Vishnu as Rama) are adoring. 

Many suttee-stones have been photographed by 
the Indian Archaeological Department, but, though 
undoubtedly objects of historical and antiquarian 
interest, they are so very many, strewn throughout 
an enormous tract of country, that it is not worth 
while reproducing them indefinitely. All the way up 
to the plateau where ruined Chitor lies amid jungle 
these witnesses are by the wayside ; the plateau ! 
itself abounds with them. Above the women's 

i A H Lon?hurst. Hambi Ruins, 38. 


bathing-place is the Mahasati, " the Great Place of 
Faithfulness/' with the monuments of kings and 
nobles. To the spectator of any imagination the 
place is grirn to the point of oppression. Above are 
the city's mighty battlements, and the flashing colour * 
of the wild parrots and peacocks that abound here ; 
below is the cool, secluded place of waters, collecting 
in a perfect bathing-pool before plunging in a long 
shining arrow to the plain. Here thousands of women 
bathed for the last time before going to their lord's 
funeral pile, and here ended the secret corridor from 
palace to pool the corridor that leads to the under- 
ground caverns that keep the ashes of the brave 
women who died in the jauhar when Allah-ud-din 
sacked the city. 1 Near by is the Palace of Padmani 
(the Indian Helen but in no way like Helen in her 
life), looking out on its lake and tangled solitudes. 
The Palace is now being "repaired" disastrously. 
And all about are towers and temples, each one a 
history in itself. 

But Chitor is a place to which the mind of India 
goes in continual pilgrimage, and its grimness is a 
moving and glorious thing, infinitely more than mere 
horror. More terrible is the Mahasati outside Udaipur, 
Chitor's successor, where the later Ranas burned. 
Here, besides the chhattris or stone , canopies, are 
lines of stones covered with red tinsel, the Rana's 
own stone, central to the whole line, being larger 

1 Probably in 1303, 



and usually covered with silver tinsel. By counting 
the smaller stones you may know how many women 
perished with one man. It is not unusual to find a 
score of these stones, and I have counted over sixty 
in one line. Tod cites the instance of Raja Ajit 
Singh of Marwar (Jodhpur) another Rajput state 
with whom in 1780 sixty-four women burned : 

" No less than sixty-four females accompanied the shade 
of Ajit to the mansion of the sun. But this is twenty short 
of the number who became satis when Raja Budh Singh of 
Bundi was drowned ! " z 

But the suttees of Rajasthan sink into insignificance 
beside those recorded by trustworthy authorities for 
some South Indian states, especially Vijayanagar 
during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. 
Portuguese missionaries once brought the report of 
eleven thousand women sacrificed on the death of a 
South Indian Raja. This we may hope and believe 
was exaggeration ; but we know that at Vijayanagar 
it was customary to burn two or even three thousand. 

" A cinder-mound near Nimbapuram, north-east of Vija- 
yanagar, marks the scene of these appalling holocausts." * 

" This mound is composed of alternate layers of slag-like 
cinders and ashy earth mixed with small fragments of 
calcined bone/' 3 

1 Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (Clarendon Press, 1920, 
edited William Crooke), 11. 837. 

* Oxford History of India, 665 n. 

3 A. H. Longhurst, Hampt Ruins. The identification, though 
probable, cannot be taken as certain. 


When the Vijayanagar empire broke up, the practice 
was continued on a smaller scale by its chief fragment, 
the kingdom of Madura. Teixeira writes : 

" When I was in India, on the death of the Naique of 
Madure, a country situated between that of Malauar and 
that of Choromandel, four hundred wives of his burned 
themselves along with him/' I 

This was in 1611. In 1620 a Mahommadan writer 
testifies : 

" The author arrived in company with his father at the 
city of Southern Mathura, where, after a few days, the ruler 
died and went to hell. The chief had seven hundred wives, 
and they all threw themselves at the same time into the 
fire/' => 

For reasons which no one has yet established, 
suttee seems to have increased in many parts of India 
between 1680 and 1830. As this period comes clearly 
under foreign observation, the incredible barbarity 
of the rite is luridly shown. The reader will find 
abundant evidence of this in later chapters. Nor 
was this wholesale immolation of the female household 
confined to the palaces of Central and North- Western 
India. In Bengal, at the beginning of the nineteenth 
or end of the eighteenth century, there are instances 
of the burning of a score or even two score women 
with one quite unimportant man. We read of a 
pyre kept alight for three days, while relays of widows 

1 Quoted in Hobson-Jobson, article " Suttee/' a Ibid. 


were fetched from a distance. The dead man was a 
Brahman, and these women were many of them only 
nominally his wives. Bengal was under the curse 
of J^jinism, the power and prestige of the four highest 
Brahman clans, the kulin families. Many members 
of these made a profession of marriage, selling them- 
selves as husbands to a great number of women, few 
of whom ever lived with their husband or even saw 
him after marriage, except when they climbed his 

It was usual to burn slaves and concubines on a 
separate pyre from their lord's, unless the slaves were 
a queen's personal attendants. A lady of rank was 
attended on the pyre by her own female slaves. 

I have mentioned the jauhar, the Rajput's act in 
utter despair, when he sent all his women to the 
pyre before the men rushed out on their foes. At 
the jauhar before the sack of Jaisalmer (A.D. 1295) 
twenty-four thousand women are said to have perished. 
These, of course, were the whole female population, 
of all ages. Equal or greater numbers must have 
perished in the great jauhars of Chitor. An early 
example of the rite, probably before the Rajputs had 
begun to enter India, occurred in a town on the Indus 
which Alexander the Great invested. The jauhar 
shows suttee in its noblest form. 

In the Panjab and Rajasthan sometimes a mother 
burned on her son's pyre. This, known as ma-sat^ 
" mother-suttee," was the highest kind of all, and 


received special honour. 1 Sometimes sisters burned 
with a brother. In Gujarat and Rajasthan men- 
slaves often attended their master's corpse as it 
burned. Such a slave was called satu, the masculine 
of saK. In 1818, together with eighteen women, 
eighteen men-slaves burned with the Maharaja of 
Jaipur, including his barber, who was sent along to 
shave his lord in the next world.* 

The tenacity with which some castes and peoples 
of India cherished the rite was shown in 1722, when 
a leading merchant in the Hindu trading colony at 
Astrakhan, in Russia, died. The suggestion that his 
widow should burn was received as barbarous and 
permission refused, whereupon the Indian traders 
removed their factories and commerce from the town. 
Permission was then given, and the widow was burnt 
with due pomp and publicity.s 

1 H. A, Rose, Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab 
and North-West Frontier Province, i, 201 

2 Anne Thackeray Ritchie and Richardson Evans, Earl Amherst 
(" Rulers of India " senes), 197, 

3 Peter Henry Bruce, Memoirs (1782), 252 ff 


SUTTEE generally took the form of burning alive; 
but in the Telugu country, including Vijayanagar, it 
was sometimes by burial alive. The weaver caste in 
some parts of India in Tippera, for example also 
practised suttee by burial. Irregularly, it could be 
by drowning, especially when a woman had escaped 
from the pyre. We have an eye-witness's account 
of a Brahman in a boat in mid-stream at Allahabad 
superintending the suicide of sixteen women ; but I 
think the Cyclopcedia of India may be mistaken in 
assuming this to have been a suttee. Among the 
lower castes suttee was unusual, but these sometimes 
imitated their betters ; and there are instances on 
record of even Mahommadans being burnt and their 
widows with them. 

In Western India the widow " lay in a grass hut, 
supporting her husband's corpse with her right hand, 
while she set the pyre alight with a torch held in her 
left hand/' J In Gujarat, 

"The pile of the Sutee is unusually large; heavy cart- 
wheels are placed upon it, to which her limbs are bound, 
or sometimes a canopy of massive logs is raised above it, to 
crush her by its fall She seats herself with her husband's 

1 W. Crooke, Things Indian, 449. 


head reclining in her lap, and, undismayed by all the para- 
phernalia of torment and of death, herself sets fire to the 
pile. It is a fatal omen to hear the sound of the Sutee's 
groan ; as, therefore, the fire springs up from the pile there 
nses simultaneously with it a deafening shout of ' Victory 
to Urnba ! Victory to Runchor ! ' and the screaming horn 
and the hard-rattling drum sound their loudest until the 
sacrifice is consummated." x 

In South India, in Orissa, and sometimes in Bengal, 
the pyre was in a pit, into which the widow jumped 
after the pyre was alight. In Vijayanagar the husband 
was burnt first, and then the widow, having changed 
her showy garments for coarse yellow cloth, walked 
three times round the pit, holding her relations' hands 
with one hand and a branch in the other, and then 
went " singing and running to the pit where the 
fire is," a poured a pot of oil over her head, mounted 
some high steps, and leapt in. In North India 
generally, including Bengal, she climbed on the pyre 
and sat or lay down, with her husband's head in her 
lap or on her breast ; the dead man's eldest son or 
nearest relative then lit the pile. She was by no 
means always left free. Especially in Bengal, she was 
often bound to the corpse with cords, or both bodies 
' were fastened down with long bamboo poles curving 
over them like a wooden coverlet,3 or weighted down 

1 A. K. Forbes, Ras Mala, 6gi. 

a Perfiao Nuniz, quoted by Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, 40 
3 Rammohan Ray in 1818 spoke of this custom as a recent inno- 
vation and confined to Bengal It is significant that this constraint 
began to be put on widows about the time that the agitation for 
the abolition of suttee became strong. 


with logs. Often there was a canopy, which was 
cut loose after the pyre was alight and smothered 

I give two descriptions of suttee of a kind different 
from that best known : 

" When a captain dies, however many wives he has, they 
all burn themselves, and when the king dies they do the 
same. This is the custom throughout all the country of 
the heathen, except with that caste of people called Telugas, 
amongst whom the wives are buried alive with their husbands 
when they die. These go with much pleasure to the pit, 
inside of which are made two seats of earth, one for him 
and one for her, and they place each one on his own seat and 
cover them in little by little till they are covered up ; 
and so the wife dies with the husband/' * (In Vijayanagar, 

The second I condense from the account of a traveller 
in Bali a century ago. 3 It was the custom in that 
island to burn the king's corpse separately from his 
wives, for each of whom a separate fire-pit was pre- 
pared. The wives put off their ornaments, wounded 
themselves slightly in the arm and smeared their 
face and limbs with blood, and then mounted a 
scaffold from which they sprang into the pit. The 
scaffold was so constructed that it could be tilted 
towards the pit if any wife hesitated. If any wife 
escaped from the pyre or refused to go to it, she was 
killed publicly with a " kriss," or privately if she was 
of royal blood. 

1 Fernao Nuniz, quoted in Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, 392-3 
(1900 edition). 

Asiatic Journal, September-December 1830, 242. 


Suttee reached its most magnificent and least 
squalid form among the Rajputs. I quote Sir Alfred 
LyalTs verse, which is substantially exact as a picture 
of the rite : 

Farewell ! and forth must the lady ride. 

Her face unveiled, in rich attire, 

She strikes the stone with fingers red, 
cc Farewell the palace, to the pyre 

We follow, widows of the dead 1 " 
And I, whose life has reached its verge, 
Bethink me of the wailing dirge 

That day my father forth was borne 
High seated, swathed in many a shawl, 

By priests who scatter flowers, and mourn ; 
And the eddying smoke of the funeral 

Thus did he vanish ; with him went 

Seven women, by the flames set free ; 
I built a stately monument 

To shrine their graven effigy : 
In front my father, godlike, stands, 
The widows kneel with folded hands ; 

All yearly ntes are duly paid, 

All round are planted sacred trees, 

And the ghosts are soothed by the spreading shade, 
And lulled by the strain of their obsequies. 1 

But the roots of the custom in the most primitive 
layers of human savagery are laid bare, beyond all 
possibility of hiding by those who idealize it, by the 
rites that accompanied it ; and sometimes laid bare 
very crudely. The Vijayanagar saffi flung into the 
fire a cloth filled with rice, also betel leaves, and then 

* A Rajpoot Chief of the Old School 


" her comb and mirror with which she adorned herself, 
saying that all these are needed to adorn herself by her 
husband's side/' x 

The rice and betel were for his dinner ; it is possible, 
too, that the oil that she poured on her head was 
intended for his toilet, though it served the immediate 
purpose of shortening her own sufferings. 

Suttee was particularly practised at the junction of 
rivers a sacred spot in India and in towns that 
were held in particular veneration, such as Benares 
and Gaya. Suttee shrines are usually beside water, 
to the west of a stream or tank, and facing east. 

1 Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, 41. 


DIODORUS SICULUS r explains the rite as an insurance 
against untimely death of husbands ; it was adopted 
because wives poisoned their lords. 

" This wicked practice increasing, and many falling victims 
to it, and the punishment of the guilty not serving to deter 
others from the commission of the crime, a law was passed 
that wives should be burned with their deceased husbands, 
except such as were pregnant and had children ; and that 
any individual who refused to comply with this aw should 
be compelled to remain a widow, and be for ever excluded 
from all rights and privileges, as guilty of impiety. This 
measure being adopted, it followed that the abominable 
disposition to which the wives were addicted was converted 
into an opposite feeling. For, in order to avoid that climax 
of disgrace, every wife being obliged to die, they not only 
took all possible care of their husband's safety, but emulated 
each other in promoting his glory and renown." * 

Strabo heard the same story, and it was told to 
foreigners at intervals throughout the centuries. It 
may well have been one strand in the complicated 
and terrible selfishness that underlay the rite, that 
men by this means sought to ensure the most anxious 
servility and desire for their comfort in their homes. 

Amid the intrigues of an Eastern court wives were 

1 xix. 32, 33. Quoted in J, Peggs, India's Cnes to British 
Humanity (second edition, 1830), 1-2, 


peculiarly susceptible as tools, as the Old Testament 
shows ; and at some Indian courts, on the death of 
a Raja, a clean sweep was made of his zenana. 
General Hervey, in noting the burning of forty-four 
women with one of the Bikanir Rajas, points out 
that this number even included the Brahmani who 
provided the zenana with water. She, as of a higher 
caste than the women to whom she ministered, could 
not be considered a wife, and was simply swept away 
as a chattel. Hervey remarks : 

" Excessive jealousy of their female connexions, operating 
on the breasts of Hindoo princes, rendered those despots 
regardless of the common bonds of Society, and of their ' 
incumbent duty as protectors of the weaker sex, insomuch 
that, with a view to prevent every possibility of their widows 
forming subsequent attachments, they availed themselves of 
their arbitrary power, and under the cloak of religion intro- 
duced the practice of burning widows alive under the first 
impressions of sorrow or despair, immediately after the 
demises of their husbands/' * 

Hinduism from the first was consistent, and increas- 
ingly and inexorably diligent, in one aim that of 
surrounding the male creature with every comfort \ 
and dignity. It is not always fair to blame a religion 
for the vices of those who practise it ; but when 
we see people as naturally humane as those of 
India, certainly as endowed with the power of feeling 
pity as any other race, perpetuating so gross and 
cruel a glorification of the man, we must seek for the 

1 Some Records of Cnme t ii. 506, 


reason in the ideas that they were taught. Suttee 
was for the aggrandizement of the husband, who took 

*.,,, , ... , , w^ftSiSwiw ,. .. . ' 

with him when he died the most valuable and personal 
of his possessions. 

" As this awful rite was chiefly an appendage to regal 
and princely state, it has been considered as honourable in 
itself and as reflecting additional lustre on the caste and 
family to which the magnanimous victim belonged. In 
very old times it was considered an affront to the memory 
of the deceased, and as an evident mark of the want of that 
ardent devotion which a woman owes to her husband, when 
she showed any reluctance to accompany his body to the 
pile." * 

" The monuments of this noble family of the Haras are 
far more explicit than those of the Rathors, for every such 
Sati is sculptured on a small altar in the centre of the 
cenotaph : which speaks in distinct language the all-powerful 
motive, vanity, the principal incentive to these tremendous 
sacrifices " * 

A chieftain's women were toys and dolls, just as 
truly as the women of the Mogul's harem. Chosen 
for their physical loveliness, they were moths who 
led a twilight existence that ended in the bewildering 
pomp that brought them to the flame. They were 
of no moment in their fluttering lives except as orna- 
ments, and there was an ethical compulsion in the 
doom that sent down the dynasties whose splendour 
was nourished by their weakness and misery. On 
the score of picturesqueness, Akbar, the wary and 
watchful, is a poor figure beside the Rajput heroes 

1 Dubois, 172. 

Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, ii. 837-8 


whom he overcame ; and the historian marks with 
admiration the Sikhs -whose valour exacted blood for 
blood from the English at Ferozeshah and Chilian- 
wala. But it was a higher civilization that won, 
both with Akbar and the English. Hervey has a 
passage which brings out the pity of a system which 
looked only for prettiness and constancy in woman. 
He obtained the names of satis who had died on the 
pyxes of Bikanir Rajas ; they were such names as : 

" Ray Queen, Sun-ray, Love's Delight, Garland, Virtue 
Found, Echo, Soft Eye, Comfort, Moonbeam, Love-lorn, 
Dear Heart, Eye-play, Arbour-born, Smile, Love-bud, Glad 
Omen, Mist-clad, or Cloud-sprung the last a favourite 
name/' * 

We may look on suttee as almost inevitable irom 
the premiss of Hindu sociology and religion, that the 
husband stands to the wife in place of the Deity. 
Suttee, this surviving root from the darkest ages of 
savagery, was bound to blossom and fruit terribly, for 
a host of subsidiary considerations fed it. Families 
boasted, as they boast to-day, of their suttees, and 
tried to surpass rival families. Jealousy made an old 
man unwilling that a young and lovely woman should 
survive him. 

" Mr. Ewer then went on to show that the sacrifice was 
more often designed to secure the temporal good of the 
survivors than the spiritual welfare of the sufferer or her 
husband. The son , was relieved from the expense of main- 
taining a mother ; the male relatives, reversioners in the 

1 Some Records of Crime, i. 242 


absence of direct issue, came in at once for the estate which 
the widow would have held for her life ; the Brahmins were 
paid for their services and were interested in the maintenance 
of their religion ; and the crowd attended the show with 
the savage merriment exhibited by an English crowd at a 
boxing match or a bull-fight." * 

This sordid greed desire to avoid sharing a dead 
man's possessions with his widow was considered 
by Rammohan Ray one of the causes that led to the 
increase of suttee in Bengal over a century ago. 
Hindu writers commonly blame Mahommadan law- 
lessness ; women were unsafe, and it was best to 
preserve their honour by burning them when their 
protectors died. It is usual to blame bad Hindu 
customs on to Mahommadanism. 

But the main sources of encouragement lay deeper 
than greed, deeper than even glorification of man. 
Hindu theology, with its doctrine of retribution 
pedantic in its exactitude, proved the woman left a 
widow a sinner whose previous life had brought upon 
her in this one the heaviest of all punishments in 
the loss of her visible God. Widowhood, then, must 
in rigorous justice be an experience so desolate and 
crammed with misery that it was better to perish 
in the flames that consumed the husband's corpse. 

" The widow shall never exceed one meal a day, nor sleep 
on a bed ; if she do so, her husband falls from Swarga." 

" She shall eat no other than simple food, and shall daily 
offer the tar p ana of ku$a t tila, and water." 


" In Vatsakha, Karttika and Mdgha she shall exceed the 
usual duties of ablution, alms, and pilgrimage, and often use 
the name of God." x 

To-day, when suttee is forbidden, the life of widows 
of chieftains in Central India is often too sordid for 
contemplation. There are fortresses packed with 
these wretched creatures, who exist there without 
ornament or amusement or pleasant food, and have 
no relief except squabbles among themselves and 
banding together to make another newly arrived 
consignment of widows more unhappy than them- 
selves. A lady who knew well many of these corralled 
unfortunates told me that she thought it would be a 
reform to reintroduce suttee. 

But the widow who mounted the pyre passed from 
the condition of a sinner to one of beatification ; her , 
dying curse or blessing had absolute power and 
unfettered course. After her death prayers were 
made to hr manes, and those prayers were sure of 
fulfilment. Her dying redeemed her ancestors from 
hell, and she enjoyed everlasting communion with 
her lord. That communion was hers, even if in life 
he had hated her ; she forced her company on him, 
however unlovely or uncongenial she had been to him. 

" Accompanying her husband, she shall reside so long in 
Swarga as are the thirty-five millions of hairs on the human 

* H. T. Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays (1873), li. 136. The 
essay, The Duties of a Faithful Hindu Widow, was first published 
in 1795. 


" As the snake-catcher forcibly drags the serpent from 
his earth, so, bearing her husband (from hell), with him she 
shall enjoy heavenly bliss. 

" Dying with her husband, she sanctifies her maternal 
and paternal ancestors ; and the ancestry of him to whom 
she gave her virginity. 

" Such a wife, adoring her husband, in celestial felicity 
with him, greatest, most admired, with him shall enjoy the 
delights of heaven, while fourteen Indras reign. 

" Though her husband had killed a Brahmana, broken 
the ties of gratitude, or murdered his friend, she expiates 
the crime.'* * 

Everything conspired to point the widow along one 
path that which led to the red glow of the funeral 
pyre. Once she had announced her sankalpa, or reso- 
lution (to die), no after-hesitation or terror could 
excuse her. Withdrawal brought ill-luck on all con- 
nected with her ; die she must, however weak and 
miserable. About the death of a sati there was so 
much pomp and noise of applause, and about the 
memory of one such praise and exaltation, that often 
a psychological intoxication upheld her till she had 
passed beyond the reach of succour. It is true that 
widows were often drugged or narcotized, so that 
they became satis while unaware of what they were 
doing. But it is not true, as many writers on the 
subject imagine, that such drugging was general; 
in Bengal it was common enough, but in Rajasthan 
I think it was exceptional, though perhaps not to 
the point of being rare. The intoxication was of the 

* H. X. Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays (1873), ii. 135-6. Cf. 
the saving of Akbar quoted at the beginning of this book. 


spirit, not the body ; and the compulsion was terrible, 
being the whole tremendous, impalpable weight of 
familiar tradition and of expectation. If the woman 
were part of the enormous death-pomp of a king, 
going to the pyre as one in the ghostly bodyguard 
of a chief of Udaipur or Jodhpur or Jaipur, the 
splendid pageant, the women's cries of acclamation, 
the blare of conchs and trumpets, the elephants, the 
horses with their trappings, her own shining robes 
and vermilioned body, the fragrant gums and resin 
of the pyre these things hid from her the fate 
awarded her. And the upward race and roar of the 
flames and the shouts and music of the spectators 
drowned any voice of agony from the fire. Our eye- 
witness accounts of suttee during the first three 
decades of last century are mostly from Bengal, and 
many of these speak of the extraordinary levity and 
callousness of the spectators. It is a puzzle for the 
psychologist to reconcile with this callousness that 
super-sensitiveness to harshness inflicted or suffering 
endured which commonly marks the Bengali to-day. 
Yet in saying this I pause, remembering the mobs 
who watched our own Smithfield burnings and public 


I SUPPOSE that no one who has read this study so 
far will doubt that the softs of a raja included a 
majority of unwilling victims. The slave-girl and 
concubine are chattels, and know that resistance is 

But it is generally believed in the West that the 
sott who died as an only wife died voluntarily, a 
belief which Hindus strenuously and exaltedly in- 
culcate among themselves. We have seen that the 
Oxford History lends a modified support to this belief. 
But it is a belief which was not held by the Europeans 
who lived in Bengal during the last thirty years before 
the rife was suppressed; and it was not held by 
Rammohan Ray, who had seen his brother's wife 
burned, a hysterical and unhappy sacrifice. That 
there were many instances of a widow dying, as 
literature has so often depicted her, serene and 
uplifted beyond acknowledgment of pain, is true, 
though I have never been able to understand why 
Indian men consider this redounds to their glory. 
But I believe such cases were a minority. 

Rajput ladies burned more willingly than those of 
other parts of India ; this is beyond controversy. 


" Rajputana women of rank seem to have been the most 
willing to accompany their husbands' remains to the funeral 
pile/' * 

" The proud Rajput women used to consider the disagree- 
able duty of burning themselves with their husbands a privilege 
attaching to their blue blood." * 

The women being members of warrior clans whose 
menfolk died freely and readily in battle, the pyre 
seemed a smaller matter and the sacrifice a fairer 
thing than it did to the women of peace-loving races. 
Rajasthan history furnishes innumerable stories, of 
the most moving kind, of wives who died with their 
husbands ; not wives only, but girls scarcely in their 
teens and merely betrothed to the warrior who had 
perished before the wedding rites could be performed. 
The courage of its satis, no less than the desperate 
valour of its men, casts a sombre magnificence 
about the story of Chitor. It was barbarous ; but 
when we blame a system we must remember that 
the men and women who suffer by living in a 
system have only a limited responsibility for its 

We may take three testimonies as to the voluntary 
nature of suttee during the first twenty years of last 
century. The first is that of C. M. Lushington, 
Magistrate at Trichinopoli ; it brings out the fact 
that the worst of all compulsions is that of society 
pressing with a weight of training and of expectation 

1 Cyclop&d^a of India, article " Suttee." 
a Sir Lepel Gnffin, Ranjit Singh, 65. 


on those who, as slaves were, are forced down to a 
sub-personal level : 

" The act I apprehend is always voluntary, provided a 
being in a state of stupefaction and delusion can be said to 
possess the power of volition. " x 

The second is that of W. Ewer, Superintendent 
of Police, Lower Provinces, Bengal Presidency : 

"It is generally supposed that a Suttee takes place with 
the free will and consent of the widow, and that she frequently 
persists in her intention to burn, in spite of the arguments 
and entreaties of her relations. But there are many reasons 
for thinking that such an event as a voluntary Suttee very 
rarely occurs : few widows would think of sacrificing them- 
selves unless overpowered by force or persuasion, very little 
of either being sufficient to overcome the physical or mental 
powers of the majority of Hindoo females. A widow, who 
would turn with natural instinctive horror from the first 
hint of sharing her husband's pile, will be at length gradually 
brought to pronounce a reluctant consent, because, distracted 
with grief at the event, without one friend to advise or 
protect her, she is little prepared to oppose the surrounding 
crowd of hungry Brahmuns and interested relations, either 
by argument or force. ... In this state of confusion a few 
hours quickly pass, and the widow is burnt before she has 
had time even to think on the subject. Should utter 
indifference for her husband, and superior sense, enable her 
to preserve her judgment, and to resist the arguments of 
those about her, it will avail her little the people will not 
be disappointed of their show; and the entire population 
of a village will turn out to assist in dragging her to the 
bank of the river and in keeping her down on the pile Under 
these circumstances nine out of ten widows are burnt to 

* Peggs, India* sjCrics to Bntish Humanity (second edition, 1830), 

IOO-I. ~"~ * ~~* 

a Ibid., 14-15. 


This witness, who in his official duties probably 
had more opportunity of getting first-hand knowledge 
of suttees than anyone else in India, was one of those 
most urgent that Government should prohibit the 

Our third witness is the Magistrate at Bhuj, Gujarat, 
writing in October 1819 : 

" There has been only one instance of a woman desiring 
to burn herself m our district, in Cutch, since 1816. In 
that instance I proceeded to her house, and, as she appeared 
firm in her resolution, I could only persuade her to delay 
the ceremony for a few days, promising that at the expiration 
of that time, if she persisted in her wish, she should meet 
with no hindrance. As might be expected, twenty-four hours 
produced a total change ! Instead of the hysterical grief 
with which she was affected, tears came to her relief, and 
she declared her resolution not to burn. Her friends were 
very anxious that she should be dissuaded from burning." * 

This witness brings out what we should expect to 
find : once the rite became rare in a district, a senti- 
ment against it grew up, and the weight of opinion 
helped widows away from the pyre and not towards it. 

It would be easy to find instances of satis dying 
with courage and exaltation ; and also, although 
Indian tradition has naturally remembered these 
instances alone, it would be easy to find mostly 
from the testimony of European witnesses at least 
as many examples of what can only be called murder 
of the cruellest kind. But I have chosen my eight 

, India's Cnes to Bntish Humanity, 10. 


examples, irrespective of the victims' willingness or 
revulsion, solely to show the rite at different times 
and in places widely apart; all are the accounts 
given by eye-witnesses or obviously derived from eye- 
witnesses. 1 

* See Appendix. 



ALBUQUERQUE in 1510 prohibited suttee within the 
Portuguese territory of Goa. The third of the Sikh 
Gurus, Amar B ,pas (1552-1574), condemned it, with 
how little result we shall see later. The rite aroused 
horror in the Mogul conquerors of India ; Akbar on 
one occasion rode at top speed nearly a Hundred 
miles and succeeded in saving the Raja of Jodhpur's 
daughter-in-law from burning against her will. He is 
often said to have forbidden the rite ; but he could 
only insist that it be always voluntary, and even 
this restriction could not, of course, obtain in the 
territory of the great Rajput chieftains. His son 
and successor, Jahangir, in 1620 seems to have for- 
bidden it on pain of death for those implicated in its 
performance ; but a good deal of uncertainty hangs 
bver these Mahommadan attempts to suppress suttee. 
What is certain is, the Mogul emperors strongly dis- 
icountenanced it. 

It is customary to say that these early efforts at 
suppression failed; but within the regions directly 
controlled by Delhi they were substantially successful, 
and suttee was driven into native states and outlying, 


semi-independent provinces such as Bengal. Charles 
Metcalfe, 1 who in 1829 anticipated rebellion in Bengal 
as a result of Lord Bentinck's prohibition, eighteen 
years before, when Resident at Delhi and a young 
man of twenty-six, had peremptorily forbidden suttee. 
Only once was it found necessary to resort to a show 
of force to prevent the rite, so completely had two 
centuries of Mahommadan rule eradicated the senti- 
ment in favour of it. 

Among the Marathas there seems always to have 
been a certain feeling against suttee which struggled 
with that in its favour. The Marathas have had 
" a bad press " with English writers, just as the 
Rajputs have had a conspicuously good one. As 
Mr. Kipling has enthusiastically reminded us : 

" The Rajput is a man and a brother, in respect that he 
will ride, shoot, eat pig, and drink strong waters like an 
Englishman. Of the pig-hunting he makes almost a religious 
duty, and of the wine-drinking no less." a 

But the Maratha, though lacking in these fine qualities 
and often as unattractive in personal appearance as 
that magnificent person, the Rajput, is attractive, is 
a man of high intelligence, and has given his women 
a great deal of freedom. Purdah in the West sup- 
posed to be of uniform strictness all over India 
varies very greatly with the district and the race; 

1 Afterwards Lord Metcalfe. Born January 30, 1785 ; Resident, 
Delhi, 1811-1819, Governor, Jamaica, 1839; Governor-General, 
Canada, 1842. 

* JLptters of Marque^ IJC. 


and the Maratha, as a rale, has not considered it 
necessary either to seclude or to burn his women. 
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Maratha 
distaste for suttee grew, and the famous Queen Ahalya 1 
Bai, who died in 1795, discouraged it, and did her' 
best, though in vain, to dissuade a daughter from 
mounting the pyre. Before the century ended two 
Maratha states the Peshwa's personal dominions 
and, in the South of India, Tan j ore prohibited 
suttee. The prohibition can hardly have been entirely 
effective, and Tanjore relapsed later, 1 so that it became 
one of the few bad centres of the rite in the Indian 
peninsula. A third Maratha state, Savantvadi, was 
mentioned by the Governor of Bombay, in a letter 
dated May 6, 1821, as having abolished suttee ten or 
twelve years before. 

Soon after the nineteenth century opened the 
Dutch administration prohibited suttee in Chinsura ; 
and the French at Chandranagar and the Danes at 
Serampur, without making it an offence, suppressed 
it by administrative interference. Hindus resident in 
these towns had to take their widows into British 
territory and to get a British magistrate's sanction 
before burning them. 

All these suppressions took place in small and 
compact districts, with the exception of the only 

1 This fact has been overlooked by the Oxford History and other 
writings that treat of suttee, and in fairness it must be mentioned, 
as well as the temporary prohibition, 


partially successful action of the Moguls. The problem 
of the British Government was a much more difficult 
one, nor could a way be found out by the mere enquiry 
as to whether the rite was enjoined in the Hindu 
scriptures or not. 

" The practice of sati had been in force for so many 
centuries that it was an archaic and useless question for 
the English administration to inquire whether it was really 
in accordance or not with the injunctions of the early Hindu 
religion." * 

Suttee was there ; and in the early days of a struggling 
administration it was simply accepted, and there was 
very little notice taken of it. In February 1789 
Mr. M. H. Brooks, the Collector of Shahabad, forcibly 
prevented a suttee and reported his action ; Govern- 
ment approved, but told him that he must not resort 
to " coercive measures " or exercise of authority, but 
use private authority only. 2 In 1803 William Carey, 
the missionary, took a census 3 of suttees occurring 
within a circle extending thirty miles from Calcutta ; 
the returns were necessarily inadequate, but came to 
four hundred and thirty-eight. Next year he placed 
ten reliable men at intervals throughout the same 
extent of country, each man being given a definite 
station and area of observation ; they sent in monthly 

1 Demetrius C. Boulger, Lord William Bentinck (" Rulers of 
India " series), 79. 

z The Calcutta Review, anonymous article " Suttee/* 1867, 224. 

3 William Ward, A View of the History, Literature, and Mythology 
of the Hindoos, ui. 329 (1822 edition). 


reports for six months. The number of suttees 
reported was less, but showed that between two and 
three hundred widows were burnt. 1 Carey placed 
these results before the Governor-General, Lord 
Wellesley, who was shocked and strongly inclined to 
prohibit the rite. Instead, in August 1805, he sub- 
mitted the matter to the Supreme Court, who replied 
two years later, recommending that Government guide 
its policy by " the religious opinions and prejudices 
of the natives." a In this way Government entered 
on its course 1 of vacillation and timidity, which lasted 
for a quarter of a century. 

Meanwhile district officers from time to time found 
themselves in positions where the absence of definite 
orders concerning suttee caused embarrassment. In 
1805 J.^R._Elphinstone J Collector of Gaya, stopped 
the burning of a girl of twelve, and reported that she 
and her friends were " extremely grateful " for his 
interposition. He asked for guidance as to dealing 
with suttee. His question, coming with Carey's 
evidence, persuaded Government to get judicial 
opinion, as we have seen ; but it was not until 1812 
that his question was answered. Government were 

1 Ward. His language is loose, and may mean that the returns 
showed that widows were being burnt at the rate of between two 
and three hundred a year, or that this number were burnt in six 
months only. 

. Calcutta Review, 1867. To this article, very much the best 
account of suttee ever written, I am indebted for a good deal of 
this summary of the events between 1805 and 1829 ; but most 
of its matter is taken from the Parliamentary Papers on widow- 
burning, 1830. 


harassed by other problems the unsuccessful siege 
of Bhurtpur, the growing power of Ranjit Singh, the 
war in Java. 

In 1812 the question that had been shelved was 
again raised by Wauchope, an official in Bandelkhand, 
who merely asked what he was to do about suttee. 
Government and the Supreme Court looked at one 
another, and the Court " then exhumed " their advice 
of some years previously, which they had framed 
after referring to Hindu pundits the questions which 
Government in 1805 had referred to them. Govern- 
ment therefore, on December 5, 1812, having con- 
sidered both the judicial and the ecclesiastical replies, 
observed that: 

" The practice, generally speaking, being thus recognized 
and encouraged by the doctrines of the Hindoo religion, it 
appears evident that the course which the British Government 
should follow according to the principle of religious toleration 
already noticed, is to allow the practice in those cases in 
which it is countenanced by their religion, and to prevent 
it in others in which it is, by the same authority, pro- 

They then forbade compulsion or the use of drugs 
v and intoxicants to tamper with the satf's will, and 
instructed magistrates to stop the ^ite also in the 
case of girls under sixteen or women who were 
pregnant, as in such circumstances it would be 
repugnant to the principles of Hindu law. The 
police were ordered to try to get early information 
of an intended suttee, and a police officer (usually a 


Hindu or Mahommadan, as the few British officers 
could not attend the hundreds of suttees that took 
place) was to be present at the pyre to see that 
everything was in order. These instructions were 

" The Government and the Sudder Court * were, in fact, 
getting into a dilemma by attempting to introduce justice 
and law into what was, in itself, the highest kind of illegality, 
the most palpable injustice, and the most revolting cruelty " * 

There can be no doubt that the new Regulations 
increased suttee. In 1825 the Governor of Bombay 
disapproved of the presence of a magistrate at the rite 

" as tending to give more dignity to the ceremony and to 
render the merit of the sufEerer more conspicuous." 3 

In the same year C. T. Sealy, a Calcutta Judge, 
declared : 

" I have always been of opinion that we increased the 
number of Suttees by sanctioning them/' * 

In December 1818, at the end of the worst year for 
suttees of which we have any record, H. Oakley, 
Collector of Hooghly, wrote : 

" Previous to 1813 no interference on the part of the 
police was authorized, and widows were sacrificed legally 
or illegally as it might happen ; but the Hindoos were then 
aware that the Government regarded the custom with natural 
horror, and would do anything short of direct prohibition 

1 The Supreme Court. Calcutta Review, 1867, 235. 

3 Peggs, India's Cries to British Humanity, 58-9. 4 Ibid., 58. 


to discourage and gradually to abolish it. The case is now 
altered. The police officers are ordered to interfere, for the 
purpose of ascertaining that the ceremony is performed in 
conformity with the rules of the shastras, and in that event 
to allow its completion. This is granting the authority of 
Government for the burning of widows ; and it can scarcely 
be a matter of astonishment that the number of the sacrifices 
should be doubled when the sanction of the ruling power is 
added to the recommendation of the shastra." * 

A more cautiously worded, but not less valuable, 
testimony can be added : 

''The Governor-General in Council is reluctantly led to 
express his apprehension that the greater confidence with 
which the people perform this rite under the sanction of 
Government, as implied or avowed in the circular orders 
already in force, combined with the excitement of religious 
bigotry by the continual agitation of the question, may 
have tended to augment, rather than diminish, the frequency 
of these sacrifices." a 

In 1821 Mr. C. Smith, second judge of the Sudder 
Court, wrote : 

" Our Government, by modifying the thing and issuing 
orders about it orders which even the Government and 
the Sudder judges themselves do not appear clearly to 
comprehend have thrown the ideas of the Hindoos upon 
the subject into a complete state of confusion. They know 
not what is allowed and what interdicted ; but upon the 
whole they have a persuasion that our Government, whom 
they most erroneously suppose to be indifferent about the 
lives of the natives, are rather favourable to suttee than 
otherwise. They will then believe that we abhor the usage, 
when we prohibit it in toto by an absolute and peremptory 
law. They have no idea that we might not do so with the 

1 Peggs, India's Cries to British Humanity, 53 8 Ibid, 


most perfect safety ; they conceive our power and our will 
to be commensurable/' * 

I think there can be no doubt that the sanction of 
the Government was sometimes misrepresented as an 
order that widows should burn. 

The vacillation of Government was seconded by 
the indifference and unimaginative stupidity of the 
legal mind. The judicial reviews of the annual 
returns of suttees contain some astounding examples |f 
of pedantry. One Collector is rebuked because hej/ 
had not explained the delay of a day in the case of 1 
a suttee ; another is told that a washerman spectator 
who had pushed a widow back into the blazing pit 
from which she was escaping might be punished " as 
for a misdemeanour " ; a third should have stated 
the widow's caste, instead of merely returning her as 
a Hindu ; a fourth should have written " dissuaded " 
and not " prevented." One very bad case of suttee, 
the Court remarks, " bears the appearance of irregu- 
larity/' Certain Collectors are 

"reminded of inattention to valuable Circular Orders and 
of neglect to furnish information as to the condition and 
circumstances of the deceased/' 

The Patna Court, on January n, 1819, wrote : 

" We^ hayejthe pleasure to transmit the annual report ! 
of the number of Hindoo women who have burnt themselves 

1 Parliamentary Papers on widow-burning, 1830^ 8. 
a Calcutta Review t 1867, 237. 



on the funeral piles of their husbands in the Zillah of Sarun 
in the year 1818." * 

The Collector of Ghazipur used the same unexcep- 
tionable phraseology, and had 

" the pleasure to forward the prescribed annual report of 

The Regulations governing suttee were not finally 
approved until April 1813, and were further modified 
on September 9, 1817 : 

" It was then provided with an offensive particularity 
that women in a state of menstruation were not to burn, 
nor such as had infants at the breast or under four years 
old, nor such as had children under seven, unless responsible 
persons would engage to maintain the orphans." 3 

Also anumarawa was forbidden to brahmams, and rela- 
tions of a $<tf& were bound, under penalty of fine and 
imprisonment, to give notice to the police before 
the burning took place. Another order passed at 
the same time forbade the burying alive 3 of widows 
of weavers, prevalent in Tippera and other parts 
of East Bengal, and now considered not to be in 
accordance with the shastras ; magistrates were to 
try offenders. 

Against the criminal pedantry of the Courts and 
the timidity of Government it is fair to remember 
the courage of many magistrates, men of generous 

* Calcutta Review, 1867, 235. See also Parliamentary Papers. 
3 Calcutta Review, 1867* 

3 The Calcutta Review writer makes (and repeats) the mistake 
of thinking that the weaver caste burned their widowsj 


instincts and humanity, who forbade suttee in their 
jurisdiction. And from every side the men who 
would have to bear the risk of rebellion if rebellion 
came urged abolition. So it came about that in the 
district round Delhi suttee had been driven out of 
existence, and in many wild places and bigoted towns 
suttee was prevented by one man's fearlessness. In 
some of the native states also the Resident used his 
influence successfully to prevent the rite. Tod, after 
speaking of the eighty-four satis at the funeral of 
Raja Budh Singh of Bundi, adds with justifiable 
exultation : 

" Budh Singh was . . . one of the most intrepid generals 
of Aurangzeb ; the period elapsed is about one hundred and 
twenty years. Mark the difference ! When his descendant, 
my valued friend the Rao Raja Bishan Singh, died in 
1821, his last commands were that none should give such 
a proof of their affection. He made me guardian of his 
infant heir. In a few days I was at Bundi, and his com- 
mands were religiously obeyed." * 

In 1823 Sir John Malcolm wrote : 

" In the whole of Central India there have not been, as 
far as can be learnt, above three or four Sutties annually 
for the last twenty years. . . . Those shocking scenes which 
still occur on the death of the princes of Jeypoor, Joudpoor, 
and Odeypoor, to swell whose funeral honours numbers of 
unwilling females are forcibly thrown upon the pile, are 
unknown in this country." 

And, for one cause and another, the vigorous dis- 
approval of such men as Tod and Malcolm being one, 

1 Rajarthan, ii, 838. A Memoir of Central India t ii. 207,- 


suttee was at last slowly dying out, except in 
Rajasthan, Bengal, and the Panjab ; through vast 
tracts of country it had practically disappeared. So 
completely had it faded out of the tradition of the 
district round Delhi and much of what later became 
the United Provinces, that even in the mighty 
incandescence of Hindu passion and sentiment in 
the Mutiny of 1857 we do not hear of suttees. We 
should have heard of them abundantly if -Rajasthan 
or Bengal had been among our enemies. In those 
parts of (what later became) the United Provinces 
where suttee existed a hundred and twenty years ago 
it was in infinitely less vogue than in Bengal. Maratha 
sentiment, after a temporary yielding, was gathering 
against the rite. Even at Poona, between 1800 and 
1810, its occurrence had dropped to about a dozen 
cases annually " on the average of as many years." * 
Dubois, in 1816, wrote that suttee was " more rare in 
the peninsula than in the northern parts of India " * ; 
and Elphinstone, whose impressions were formed 
about the same time, though published twenty-three 
1 years later, states that it never occurred to the south 
of the river Krishna 3 a statement not true, though 
'the rite was rare in the south and yearly growing 
irarer. In the Bombay and Madras Presidencies, 
'during the years 1815 to 1820, the average number 

1 Edward Moor, Hindu Pantheon (edited W. O. Simpson, 1864), 

Edited Pope, 172. 3 History, 209 (1874 edition). 


of annual suttees was well below fifty. In Madras it 
was less common in the centre, and in the west and 
south unknown, except in Tan j ore and one estate 
in Kanara. 1 Tanjore, now the worst district, had 
twenty-four cases in eighteen months (circa 1816), 
About the same time the Judge of South Malabar 
spoke of it as entirely absent ; there had been two 
attempts to perform it, but the people themselves 
had opposed them, and the funeral parties had been v 
compelled to take their widows to Coimbatore to burn. 

" Since that time nothing of the kind has been attempted, 
nor would the natives quietly permit it on the soil of 
Malabar." 3 

We must now return to the effect of the 1813 
Regulations in Bengal. There are no returns for 
1814, owing to the delay in finally sanctioning the 
orders originally made out in December 1812. But 
the first four years for which returns were made 
give the following result in the districts subordinate 
to the Presidency of Bengal : 

1815. 378 suttees were officially reported. 

1816. 442 suttees were officially reported. 

1817. 707 suttees were officially reported. 

1818. 839 suttees were officially reported. 

In 1818, the year when the pyres blazed most 
fiercely, Rammohan Ray began to publish his pam- 
phlets against the rite, action which aroused such 
anger that for a while his life was in danger. But 

1 Calcutta Review, 1867, 233 Ibid. 


he awakened a conscience in his own countrymen, 
which presently found expression in protests in native 
newspapers ; and the number of suttees never reached 
this height again. The awful record of 1818 disquieted 
many officials exceedingly ; and in England indigna- 
tion began to gather, which ultimately put upon the 
Indian Government a pressure that they could not 
withstand. On June 17, 1823, the Court of Directors, 
answering a letter of the Supreme Court, Calcutta, 
of October I, 1820, pointed out the apparent tendency 
of the rules and of official interference to increase 
suttee; they added that many considered it not a 
religious rite at all, and they invited the Indian 
Government to take the question up seriously, pro- 
mising their hearty co-operation. Lord Amherst, the 
Governor-General, wrote back despairingly on Decem- 
ber 3, 1824 : 

" Were we to be guided by the sentiments which we happen 
to know exist generally among the higher classes of natives 
at the place most favourable for ascertaining their real 
sentiments, we mean at the Presidency, we should, indeed, 
despair of ever seeing the suppression of the practice/' 

But on March 18, 1827, we find him soothing himself 
in his policy of inactivity thus : 

" But after all, I must frankly confess, though at the risk 
i of being considered insensible to the enormity of the evil, 
that I am inclined to recommend our trusting to the pro- 
gress now making in the diffusion of knowledge amongst 
1 the natives for the gradual suppression of this detestable 
superstition. I cannot believe it possible that the burning 
or burying alive of widows will long survive the advancement 


which every year brings with it in useful and rational 

It is interesting to analyse the figures for the first 
four years of returns. Of the total (2,366) , 1,485 suttees 
occurred in the Calcutta Division ; 343 in Benares, 
then, as now, the metropolis of Hindu bigotry, but 
in this matter far behind Calcutta, where often the 
presence of European magistrates and sometimes of 
horrified English ladies kindled the crowds to an 
intoxication of delight ; 155 in the densely populated 
but strongly Mahommadan Division of Dacca ; 155 in 
Patna, 1 where the population was perhaps thinnest 
but Hindu sentiment was, and is, strong ; 105 in the 
Murshidabad Division, another centre of Mahommadan 
influence ; 60 in Bareilly, 

There was considerable carelessness as to keeping 
within even the wide latitude allowed by the Direc- 
tions. Between 1815 and 1820 twenty-two widows of 
sixteen were burned, and twenty-four under that age, 
three being children eight years old. In 1818 forty- 
nine widows were under twenty, a hundred and 
twenty-two between twenty and thirty, eight were 
returned as over ninety, and two as over a hundred. 
It was found, too, that in anumarana there was 
sometimes a long delay after the husband's death 
intervals of five, ten, or even fifteen years were 
reported. It is hard to suppose that in these cases 

1 Suttee has occurred in this district several times in the present 


affection, after so long a space in which memory 
was blurring, awakened to such a pitch of resolution ; 
but it is easy to see how the wearing misery of a 
widow's lot might hound her into a belated martyrdom 
to escape from life. 

The Supreme Court, though refusing to recommend 
the prohibition of suttee, did not allow it to take 
place within their immediate jurisdiction ; Calcutta 
suttees had to take place in the suburbs. The writer 
of the article in the Calcutta Review of 1867, after 
observing that in 1819 fifty-two widows were returned 
as having been burnt in the suburbs, remarks : 

" It is, therefore, quite clear that any respectable British 
householder living at Cossipore, Ballygunge, Ahpore, or 
Garden Reach, and driving into Town for his daily work, 
or any resident within the ditch, might, if they desired it, 
reckon on being horrified by a ceremony of this kind, on an 
average, once a week " * 

After 1818 the number of suttees dropped con- 
siderably, though never as low as its pre-Regulation 

level : 


1819 .. .. 650 

1820 . . . . 598 

1821 . . . . 653 

1822 . , . . 583 

1823 .. .. 575 

1824 . . . . 572 

1825 . . . . 639 

1826 .. .. 518 

1827 . . . . 

1828 . . . . 463 
Calcutta Review^ 1867, 232. 


I cannot find that any returns were made for either 
1827 or 1829. The increased number of 1825 wa s 
ascribed to an outbreak of cholera, in which over 
twenty thousand died ; the increase led to renewed 
protest against the rite. 

It is clear to me, from consideration of the districts 
where suttee prevailed most and from such knowledge 
of India and of Hinduism as I have, that the custom 
was one which Vaishnavism tended to discourage, 
while Saktism enormously increased it, in spite of 
the fact that the Tantms forbade it. In the strongly 
Vaishnava district of Vishnupur, a kingdom which 
existed from about A.D. 600 to the end of the eighteenth 
century, and was, and is, fervently Hindu, with 
hardly a Christian in it and few Mahommadans, and 
those uninfluential, there are traditions of suttee, 
but they are vague. The only definite one that I 
traced during many years of familiarity with the 
place was the story that supplied the germ-thought 
of my drama " The Clouded Mirror." * I was told 
of a suttee in the neighbouring village of Maliara 
about a century ago, and I heard occasionally of 
others dimly remembered elsewhere, and I know 
places where a suttee must have been the original 
event that has been twisted into a different tale. 
When we remember that this district is scarcely a 
hundred miles from Calcutta, it is strange that it 
should be without suttee-stones, even at the sangam 

1 See Three Eastern Plays. 


(junction) of rivers. There are suttee-stones, but the 

people have forgotten what they are and explain 

them otherwise. But the Jungle Mahals, in which 

the district lay, returned comparatively few suttees 

in the awful records of a century ago ; and Midnapur, 

which lies still nearer to Calcutta, returned still 

fewer. I am aware that the rite must have occurred 

oftener than men now recall, and in the country 

districts the people have kept a name for a sati 

agunkhakl, "one who has eaten fire." Where the 

word sati is misunderstood or an answer refused, 

this less sacred word will enlighten at once and bring 

out such records as the village memory has kept. 

But the rite was rare where Vaishnava influence 

reigned ; the satis died most numerously in Calcutta, 

its suburbs and the towns that cling to its outskirts, 

and in Nadiya, the metropolis of Bengali history and 

Hindu learning and enthusiasm. Calcutta Hinduism, 

though cherishing a literary and sentimental fondness 

for Vaishnava poetry, in its deeper and fiercer currents 

is Sakta, and worships the terrible Goddess Kali, as 

does Rajasthan. The great Vaishnava devotee of 

Rajasthan, the Queen Mira Bai, had to leave her 

home and family and live and die in exile. She was 

a Vaishnava from childhood, and for her religion was 

persecuted and driven from Chitor. 


Governor of Madras twenty-two years before he was 
appointed Governor-General of India in 1827 ; but 
he had never seen a suttee-stone, and he brought to 
the question of continuing or prohibiting the rite a 
mind fresh and independent. A passage in Sleeman's 
Rambles and Recollections is of such interest that I 
transcribe it a little more fully than is strictly relevant 
to my purpose : 

" When I passed this place on horseback with Lord 
Bentinck, he asked me what these tombs were, for he had 
never seen any of the kind before. When I told him what 
they were, he said not a word ; but he must have felt a 
proud consciousness of the debt of gratitude which India 
owes to the statesman who had the courage to put a stop 
to this great evil, in spite of all the fearful obstacles which 
bigotry and prejudice opposed to the measure. The seven 
European functionaries in charge of the seven districts of 
the newly acquired territories were requested, during the 
administration of Lord Amherst m 1826, to state whether 
the burning of widows could or should be prohibited ; and 
I believe every one of them declared that it should not. And 
yet, when it was put a stop to only a few years after by 
Lord William, not a complaint or murmur was heard. The 
replies to the Governor-General's inquiries were, I believe, 
throughout India, for the most part, opposed to the measure/' * 

* Rambles, i. X3V*4 dSgs edition). 


Sleeman is speaking from hearsay, and it could be 
shown that he was mistaken, except in what he says 
of " the seven European functionaries in charge of 
the seven districts of the newly acquired territories," 
which were districts that he knew well at first hand. 
These districts were all in Central India abutting on 
Rajputana, where the pro-suttee feeling was strongest, 
and the few Europeans were in charge of 

' ' New-caught, savage peoples, 
Half-devil and half-child." 

Even so, Vincent Smith's comment is fair and true : 

" The tenor of the replies given to Lord Amherst's queries 
shows how far the process of Hinduizing had advanced 
among the European of&cials of the Company." r 

But it had not advanced so far among the officials 
in parts of India that had been longest under British 
rule ; and Peggs collects some forty statements made 
by East India Company servants in the dozen years 
preceding the abolition that suttee could be abolished 
without any danger, and ought to be abolished without 

Lord Bentinck took over in July 1828, and he did 
not act without the most careful preliminary in- 
vestigation and consultation of officials and pundits. 
But he was resolute to act upon a purpose with 
which his predecessors had only played Lord Wellesley 

1 Rambles (Sleeman), i. 134 (1893 edition). 


having been dissuaded by the supposed danger in 
the army, and Hastings and Amherst having been 
driven into perplexed and unhappy courses of allowing 
suttee under legal sanction. Many predicted rebellion 
if the custom were prohibited ; the native army 
especially was alleged to be bigoted in its adherence 
to the rite. But Bentinck ascertained that suttee 
was very rare indeed in our native army, which is 
not strange, seeing that, except for about a thousand 
men in the artillery, the army was not recruited from 
Bengal at all, but from the up-country where Moslem 
rulers had through two hundred years discouraged 
suttee. Of forty-nine British military officers asked 
for their opinion, a majority advocated abolition, 
some with more or less hesitation, but over twenty 
without any ; only five were in favour of leaving 
the practice alone. The Governor-General's long 
Minute on suttee is as masterly in its summary of 
the opposition and reasons for opposition and of the 
overwhelming argument in favour of abolition as it is 
honourable to himself. And there proved to be no 
disturbance, even when the appeal of many religious 
and influential Bengalis was rejected by the Privy 
Council in 1832. 

The abolition of suttee, so far from being, like the 
abolition of slavery, an example of our greatness as a 
nation and an empire, is an example of our timidity. 
In this instance we have taken to ourselves praise 
beyond our desert. The credit is almost entirelv 


personal, and it is Bentinck's. Many who hated the 
rite would have withdrawn from prohibition at the 
last moment. Mr. Coomaraswamy coolly remarks that 

" It was prohibited by law in 1829 on the initiative of 
Raja Rammohun Roy," * 

Rammohan Ray was a valiant fighter against suttee, 
but he thought the prohibition an inexpedient measure, 
as did Sir Charles Metcalfe, who had forbidden suttee 
at Delhi more than seventeen years previously. 

On Sunday morning, December 5, 1829, a document 
was brought to the Rev. William Carey, with the 
Governor-General's request that he would translate it. 

" It was nothing less than the famous Edict abolishing 
sail throughout British dominions in India ! Springing to 
his feet and throwing off his black coat, he cried, ' No church 
for me to-day ' ' . . . ' If I delay an hour to translate and 
publish this, many a widow's life may be sacrificed/ he said. 
By evening the task was finished." * 

Regulation XVII of 1829 made the burning or bury- 
ing alive of widows culpable homicide, punishable 
with fine or (and) imprisonment. When compulsion 
or the use of drugs deprived the satf of free will, the 
offence might be punished with death as murder. 
It came into immediate operation in Bengal, and was 
adopted in Madras and Bombay six months later. 
It was adopted with these modifications in Bombay: 

1 The Dance of Siva, 92. 

F. Deaville Walker William jCarey, 310. 


that the offence was murder if the widow were under 
eighteen, and an extreme limit of ten years' imprison- 
ment was set for suttee that was not murder. These 
laws lasted until 1860, when an Act made assistance 
in suttee punishable as abetment of suicide. 

The opposition of the religious and learned babus 
of Calcutta was fierce, as had been predicted ; but it 
was ordained that it should take a comic form, that 
the long-drawn-out tragedy might reveal its bitter 
absurdity in the end. On January 14, 1830, the 
Governor-General received a deputation of Bengali 
gentlemen who objected to their loss of the right to 
show their religious convictions in the old ferocious 
way. The Governor-General later in the day replied, 
inflexible in his resolution to suppress suttee, and 
pointing out that the protestants had 

" an appeal to the King in Council, which the Governor- 
General shall be most happy to forward/' 

A committee was formed^ and over eight hundred 
signatures obtained to an appeal to the Privy Council 
to restore suttee. At an enthusiastic meeting Mr. 
Francis Bathie was given full power of attorney and 
appointed to take the Petition to England; it was 
voted that he should have all the funds he needed, 
and he assured them that he was certain of success* 
The ship in which he first sailed had an accident 
with a cable chain and sprang a bad leak ; it was 
hastily run ashore. Mr. Bathie wrote to his patrons : 


" Such accidents are generally attended with the loss of 
life ; but from my being the bearer of the suttee petition, 
God has saved all who were with me " * 

He further pointed out that the delay gave a chance 
for suttee enthusiasts who lived at a distance from 
Calcutta and had been unable to sign the Petition 
to send their signatures in now. The Chandrika, 
the journal that expressed the views of the orthodox 
Hindu community, was very impressed with the 
friendly attitude shown by Providence in the affair. 
But a correspondent in the India Gazette was impious 
enough to ascribe the accident to the very fact that 
such a petition was on board ; and the Kaumu&l, 
the journal of the anti-suttee party among the Hindus, 
observed : 

" The petition sent to England, to procure the restoration 
of the burning of women, so humanely abolished by the 
Governor-General, has been brought back, by force of the 
virtuous merit of the whole female sex of our country, for 
the ship which bore it was very nearly carried to the bottom." 

Mr. Bathie ultimately reached England; and 
Mr. Lushington argued before the Privy Council on 
behalf of the religious rites which Lord Bentinck had 
stopped, contrary to the engagement of the Govern- 
ment not to interfere with liberty of conscience. 
But Rammohan Ray, who was in England, obtained 
access to members of Parliament and was consulted 

1 Was the good man by any chance remembering Acts xxvii. 


by the Privy Council, and with all the emphasis and 
power of his amazing intellect and personality begged 
them to support the action which he had thought 
premature but believed to be altogether righteous. 
The Privy Council in 1832 rejected the appeal of the 
pro-suttee party ; and Rammohan Ray procured a 
petition from progressive and humane Hindus thanking 
Lord Bentinck for what he had done. His services 
were a fitting crown to the brave life of the great 
Indian. Next year he died, and his body lies in an 
English churchyard. 



WITH Lord Bentinck's prohibition of suttee a new 
social conscience came to the Indian Government, 
and the next thirty years saw them warring against 
female infanticide, thuggee, human sacrifice, slavery, 
suttee, and all forms of indigenous barbarity. The 
Western reader who troubles about India at all 
generally assumes that the 1829 an< i ^SO Regulations 
were the end of suttee everywhere, and there is no 
historian who indicates how terribly it was still 
practised throughout a vast tract of territory. It 
took many years to disappear, and it will be instructive 
to watch the Paramount Power stamping it out in 
one area after another and reducing the extent within 
which it was legal. 

After the abolition in British India, the rite existed 
in Northern and Western India, between the Narbada 
and the Indus, and from the United Provinces to 
Sind. Within this tract it had three main strong- 
holds: (i) the states on the northern border of 
Bombay Presidency those clustering along the 
Narbada, and Baroda and the Kathiawar states; 
(2) Rajputana; (3) the Sikh empire and the states 


lying between it and British India, dependent on one 
of these two powerful neighbours or precariously 
independent. Suttee existed also in Nepal, which 
was outside British influence, and in one or two 
outlying wilds such as Assam and Orissa. 

As suttee was a matter of internal polity, Residents 
at native courts could only express unofficially the 
abhorrence of their own Government when it occurred ; 
it was not until that masterful man Lord Dalhousie 
became Governor-General that interference took a 
peremptory form. Nevertheless, the British Govern- 
ment let slip no chance that territorial changes or 
the revision of treaties afforded of securing promises 
to prohibit the rite. It seems to me beyond con- 
troversy that Indian opinion and Indian princes 
would have allowed suttee, and a host of horrors 
besides, to continue indefinitely but for this alien 
vigour in the land. 

The first chance to extend the area of abolition 
came on March 2, 1833, when a Raja was being 
installed in Assam. He was made to promise 

"to abstain from the practice, of the former Rajahs of 
Assam, as to cutting off ears and noses, extracting eyes, or 
otherwise mutilating or torturing, and that he will not inflict 
cruel punishment in his territory for slight faults " x ; 

and also to prohibit suttee. 

1 C. U. Aitchison, Treaties, Engagements, and Sunnuds (1876 
edition), i. 172, 



I have said that the attitude of the British Govern- 
ment towards the rite in native states was strictly 
correct. But progress was sometimes accelerated by 
an individual officer going beyond his duty of regis- 
tering protest. One such instance, in 1835, started 
the Bombay Government on a course of vigorous 
and persistent pressure that within five years cleared 
suttee out of the states on their borders. 

I must go back to an event of 1833. The state 
of Idar, a Rajput state close to the Bombay Presidency, 
from ancient times had had a barbaric pre-eminence 
for its satis. 

" Idar is surrounded by a brick wall in fair preservation, 
through which a road passes by a stone gateway, marked 
with many red hands each recording a victim to the rite 
of sati." 

On September 5, 1833, before a vast crowd, a cere- 
monial took place that shocked British opinion in 
India: seven queens, two concubines (of different 
caste from their dead master), four female slaves, 
and a personal manservant were burnt with the body 
of the Raja of Idar, Before the pyres were lit the 
eldest rani, addressing the crowd, said that she had 
always intended to burn with her lord, and that no 
appeal could have turned her from her purpose ; but 
she thought it strange that she had heard no single 

* Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. xiii. 


word of compassion or dissuasion. She bade those 
who were now sweeping her master's household out 
of their way to obtain the widows' inheritance to go 
and live on the plunder they were getting. The 
Karbaris (officers) followed the funeral with an exten- 
sive pillage of the Raja's personal property. 

The incident * has an interest beyond its pathos ; 
it shows what from now on is increasingly manifest 
that the women of royal households in native India 
were changing in their attitude towards suttee, now 
that their sisters in British India were no longer 
allowed to burn. 

Two years later the Raja of the neighbouring 
principality of Ahmadnagar died. His state had 
formerly been part of Idar state, as it is to-day, and 
it shared the same ferocious traditions. The British 
Agent, Mr. Erskine, who was in charge of both states, 
was now in the neighbourhood of Ahmadnagar. 
Determined to prevent a repetition of the Idar suttee, 
he moved on the town with a force of three hundred 
men. All day long, on February 8th, the deceased 
Raja's sons pleaded with him not to interfere with 
their customs ; they used the delay to push on their 
desperate measures for the sacrifice of the ranis. 
Finding Erskine resolute, they secretly summoned 
warriors from the Bhils and other turbulent tribes, 
and the British Agent became aware that men armed 
with spears and matchlocks were pouring into the 

a My authority is the Bombay Courier, September 28, 1834. 


fort. He advanced upon it, but was fired on, some 
of his men being wounded; he fell back, sent for 
artillery, and waited. About two o'clock in the 
morning women's screams were heard and the red 
glow of a pyre was seen on the darkness. During 
the night part of the fort wall had been broken down, 
and the widows, five in number, dragged to the river- 
bed and burnt. It was too late to rescue them. That 
the satis had been unwilling ones was clear. A 
woman's arm, hacked off by an axe or sword, lay 
in the ashes. The princes fled, but subsequently 
surrendered to Erskine. 1 

Erskine's action had been beyond his legal powers ; 
but his Government supported him against cruelty 
and insolence so great. In a lengthy memorandum 
dated February 18, 1836, the new Ahmadnagar ruler 
provided a scapegoat and confessed : 

" My minister Mahadjee Soobhavut is guilty in the affair 
of the suttee ; I will not give him shelter within my territory." 

He promised also : 

" From this time forward neither I nor my children nor 
my posterity will perform the ceremony of suttee." 3 

In 1840 the Bombay Government clinched matters 

* I rely on the Bombay Couner and the Imperial Gazetteer of 
India (1909), u. 443. The Gazetteer gives the number of satis as 
three. Official documents often omit to count slaves or concu- 
bines, and the Couner account is within a few months of the event, 
more than seventy years earlier than the Gazetteer. 

* Treaties, Engagements, and Sunnuds. iv ^6 


by a proclamation that any village or district in the 
Ahmadnagar territory where suttee occurred would be 
placed under attachment. 

For many years after the prohibition of suttee in 
their own jurisdiction the Bombay Government was 
annoyed by the asylum given to it by neighbouring 
states. British subjects, refused permission to burn 
in Bombay, were taken across the border and burnt 
in states where the law against suttee did not obtain. 
The chief of the little island known as Angria's 
Kolaba, about twenty miles from Bombay, and 
Pratap Singh, the Raja of Satara, were particular 
offenders. Pratap Singh, a capable ruler but un- 
friendly, ignored the protests of the British represen- 
tative, and suttee became very common in Satara. 
The Bombay Government, sensitive under the loss of 
prestige that resulted when their laws were flouted, 
although beyond their borders, began to follow up 
cases of the burning of their own subjects. On 
January 3, 1838, a peccant chieftain, the Nawab of 
Junagarh, was compelled to make confession and 
promise to prohibit the rite altogether, a course that 
the British Government was bound to force upon 
native states once it insisted that its own subjects 
were not to be burnt : 

" After compliments. The cause of writing to you is 
this. A certain Bhattianee having arrived from Bombay 
and committed suttee at Pragrye, and the Sircar having 
issued orders preventive of such a practice, a mohsul is 


upon me in order to make me answerable ; and the particulars 
of the subject (the suttee) having been reported to Govern- 
ment, and it having been considered as a first instance of 
the kind, for which reason I have been pardoned, I give 
this writing to the effect that from henceforward such 
measures in the talooka will be taken so that no person 
will be allowed to become suttee in future. But if such 
should hereafter occur, I am responsible to any extent the 
Sircar may pronounce against me." x 

At the same time another chief in the Kathiawar 
Agency, the Sidi of Jafirabad, was made to enter 
into the same agreement. Then, in September 1839, 
the Satara Raja was deposed. His offence was that 
he had intrigued with the Portuguese and some 
native princes against the British ; but he had been 
a nuisance in other ways, his patronage of suttee 
being one. His brother became Raja, and at his 
accession of his own free will abolished the rite, later 
proving his good faith by preventing a woman from 
being burnt. 

Next year, 1840, in the absence of direct heirs, 
Angria's Kolaba " lapsed " to the British Raj. The 
same year the Government wrote sharply to the fore- 
most prince in the Bombay Presidency, the Gaekwar 
of Baroda, and cleansed that side of India from 
legal suttee by promises wrung from the leading 
chiefs of Rewa Kanta, the territory lying along the 
Mahi the Raja of Chota Udaipur, the Maharanas 
of Lunawara and Rajpipla, the Rana of Sonth, and 
the Thakurs of Bhadurwah, Wankanir, and Deogarh 

i Treaties, Engagements, and Sunnuds, iv. 145 


Barria. The context of the Government's demand is 
made clear by the Despatch of Mr. A. Remington, 
Officiating First Political Commissioner and Resident 
at Baroda : 

(Date, April 3, 1840.) " Under instructions received from 
the Resident of Baroda, conveyed to me in his letter dated 
nth March, 1840, I write to inform you that it having come 
to the notice of that officer that a British subject born in 
Rutnagherry, but residing at Baroda, died, and his widow 
immolated herself in observance of the rite of suttee, which 
the Guikwar government took no measures to prevent, the 
Political Commissioner addressed a note to His Highness 
deprecating the occurrence, and suggesting that, as the 
British Government had, after full consideration, abolished 
the rite of suttee in its own territory, His Highness should 
introduce a similar arrangement within his own, to which 
His Highness replied that, according to the request of the 
Resident, he would cause proper arrangement to be made ; 
and this concurrence being communicated to Government, 
it was pleased to declare that no act could have been per- 
formed more acceptable to it than the abolition of suttee. 
I beg to state that it appears to me advisable you should 
take measures to prohibit the practice in your own State, 
in respect of which, as the British Government are most 
intent on the speedy abolition of this rite, you will have 
the goodness, after full consideration of the above, to favour 
me with a reply." * 

All agreed to suppress suttee, 

On the other side of India, Government had 
embarked on the task of extirpating the horrible 
" meriah " human sacrifices of the Orissa highlands. 
Progress was slow, and success was not attained till 
some years later. In the meantime fifteen tributary 

* Treaties, Engagements t and Sunnuds, iv 251* 


rajas, zemindars, and mehals of Orissa were made to 
promise, by a statement dated April 14, 1842, to 
abolish suttee, adding : 

" Further, if on the demise of a Rajah any of his Ranees 
should actually desire to become ' suttees/ and should dis- 
regard our prohibition, we will restrain them from becoming 
' suttees/ and make a report of the circumstance to the 
Superintendent, and conform to such orders as we may 
receive from him. Without the Superintendent's orders (or 
permission) we will not allow any person to become a suttee. 
And we engage unhesitatingly to submit ourselves to any 
penal orders which the Superintendent of the Tributary 
Mehals may issue, if we shall act in any way contrary to 
the engagements of this Recognizance/' r 


We have seen the British Government dealing with 
native governments prejudiced in favour of suttee 
and unable to see why, if a woman had sufficient 
virtue to wish to die with her husband's corpse, she 
should not be allowed to do so. But they were 
states with little power and of secondary rank, and 
had no choice but to accept the demands of their 
overlord. Their compliance left intact the real strong- 
holds of suttee, the powerful Sikh confederacy and 
the stubborn and bigoted Rajput principalities. The 
former was destined to fight two fierce wars with the 
British, and at Chilianwala to achieve a drawn battle 
which is merely a sentence in our histories, but with 
Halighat (the great Rajput defeat, a glorious one, 

1 Treaties, Engagements, and Sunnuds, i. 120. 


by the Moguls in 1576) is the most cherished martial 
memory of secret India. 
Among the Sikhs 

"the suttee murders were atrocious. Four ladies burned 
with Ranjit Singh; one, against her will, with Kharak 
Singh; two with Nao Nihal Singh; 310 (10 wives and 
300 unmarried ladies of his zenana) were sacrificed at 
the obsequies of Raja Suchet Singh; in September 1845 
four wives of Jawahir Singh were forced on the pyre by the 
soldiery ; and, after Sobraon, the widow of Sardar Shan 
Singh burnt voluntarily." * 

But neither Vincent Smith, in this inaccurate 
summary, nor the many writers who have quoted 
it, have indicated how incredibly atrocious the suttees 
of the last years of Sikh independence were. Con- 
temporary British opinion in India was appalled by 
the obsequies of Ran jit Singh, " the Lion of the 
Panjab/' in July 1839 ; but Vigne, who gives the 
number of satis wrongly, speaks justly when he says : 

" Seven women only were burned with the body of Ranjit 
Singh a very small number, considering his rank ; but it 
was no doubt deemed expedient to show some respect to 
European prejudices." 

We have two accounts of the scene by European 
eye-witnesses 3 ; the accounts contradict each other 
in minor details, but prove the general inaccuracy 
of Thorburn j s graphic and brilliant description.* The 

1 Oxford History, 689-690 n 
Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo (1842), 86. 
s John Martin Homgberger, the Court Physician at Lahore, and 
the adventurer Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Steinbach, 
4 The Punjab tn Peace and War. 2021. 


four queens came first, walking barefooted from the 
palace to the body, which was fastened to a wooden 
board ; before each of them a man walked backward, 
holding a mirror in which the lady could watch her 
countenance and detect the first glimmer of terror 
or shrinking. Three had already given their jewels 
away; the fourth was scattering gifts from a tray 
carried beside her by a man attendant. All four 
were in plain silk, without any ornaments. The chief 
queen, Rani Kundan, placed the hands of the minister 
and of the new Maharaja and his son on the corpse's 
breast, and made them swear to be faithful to the 
Khalsa and to one another, or incur a sail's curse. 
The four ranis were then taken up in gorgeous palan- 
quins, before which their mirror and a gilt parasol, 
the symbol of their rank, were carried. They were 
borne between a long double line of infantry as down 
a street ; behind them walked seven slave-girls, also 
barefooted and plainly clad. The board to which 
the body of their master was fastened was placed on 
a brilliantly decorated bier, shaped like a ship, with 
flags and silken sails embroidered with gold and 
silver. The pyre was about six feet high, and its 
surface scattered with cotton-seeds and other inflam- 
mable stuffs. The queens, Steinbach tells us, were 
excited and exultant ; the slaves, some of whom 
seemed only fourteen or fifteen years old, resigned. 1 

* The Punjaub (1846). Psychologically, his account is the 
more detached and valuable, but Homgberger's contains the fuller 


At the pyre there was an hour's prayer, following on 
the drums and dirges of the procession ; and then 
the state ministers mounted the pyre by a ladder 
and set the corpse upon it. They descended, and 
the queens and slaves went up, Raja Dhyan Singh, 
the chief minister, being particularly officious in 
helping them. The ranis seated themselves at the 
head of their master, the slaves at the feet ; and all 
sat cowering and silent, the ranis ignoring Dhyan 
Singh's request that they would pray for the new 
Maharaja's prosperity. A thick mat of reeds was 
put over all the bodies and drenched in oil ; then 
the pile was lit at the four corners and the flames 
shot up. The whole took two days to burn. 

The heroism and beauty of the victims threw their 
fate into lurid relief, though the scene in itself was 
merely repetition of countless similar scenes that 
India has witnessed through the ages. One of the 
women was the famous " Lotus," a dancing-girl whose 
loveliness made a great impression on the British 
Mission at Ranjit Singh's court the previous year : 

" His four wives, all very handsome, burnt themselves 
with his body, as did five of his Cachmerian slave-girls, one 
of whom, who was called the Lotus or Lily, I often saw last 
year in my first visit to Lahore." * 

The Hon. Emily Eden, in her charming letters, wrote : 

" Those poor dear ranees, whom we visited and thought 
so beautiful and so merry have actually burnt themselves. 

1 Hon. W. Osborne, The Court and Camp of Runjeet Singh 
(letter dated July 12, 1839). 


. . . The death of those poor women is so melancholy ; they 
were such gay young creatures, and they died with the most 
obstinate courage." x 

Her letter of the previous day (July 2, 1839), when 
the sacrifice was merely reported as in prospect, 
contained the cynicism : 

" I begin to think that the ' hundred wife system * is 
better than the mere one wife rule ; they are more attached 
and faithful/' a 

The British Government instructed Mr. Clerk, their 
representative at Lahore, to convey their horror. 
But the six years of murder, intrigue, and anarchy 
that followed Ranjit Singh's death years so terrible 
in their indiscriminate butchery that it is hard to 
parallel them in recent history anywhere found the 
Sikhs very careless of what the British Government 
thought, especially of what it thought " unofficially/' 
With Ranjit Singh's death the last shreds of regard 
were quickly swept away. Sixteen months later the 
funeral obsequies of his successor were held : 

" On the funeral pile of his son, Maharaja Kharak Singh, 
one of his chadar dalna 3 wives, a beautiful woman named 
Isar Kour, was burnt. She was unwilling to be a sail, and 
it is said that she was forced to burn by the minister Raja 
Dhyan Singh." 4 

1 Up the Country (1867), 310. a Ibid., 309. 

3 " Throwing the sheet " a Sikh form of marriage with the 
brother of a deceased husband. 

4 Sir Lepel Griffin, Ranjit Singh (" Rulers of India " series), 65. 


Dhyan Singh had superintended the scene at Ranjit 
Singh's pyre, and had consummated his action by 
the hypocrisy of pretending to wish to be burnt with 
his master himself, pushing himself forward with loud 
cries and being " forced " back. 

Kharak Singh had been deposed by his son and his 
favourites slaughtered on October 8, 1839 ; he died 
a year later, on November 5, 1840, probably by 
poison. Two ranis and eleven slave-girls were burnt 
with him. His son, Maharaja Nao Nihal Singh, a 
boy of nineteen, left the pyre while his father's body 
was still burning, and was crushed by the falling of 
an archway on his way home, dying before midnight. 
Two wives burned with him. His successor, Shere 
Singh, was assassinated September 15, 1843, and 
burned with " the usual suttee rites/' I no writer 
troubling to specify their extent. The minister, 
Dhyan Singh, was murdered the same day. His 
widow and slave-girls, designated for his pile, 

" were kept waiting before the troops to inspire them with 
revenge, and the spectacle of their melancholy and dismal 
figures increased their fury a hundredfold/' z 

After her stepson, Hira Singh, had brought the head 
of her husband's slayer and laid it at her feet, the 
widow and her thirteen slave-girls mounted the pyre, 
first assuring Hira Singh that she would take a good 

* Stembach, 38. 

3 Syad Muhammad Latif, History of the Panjab t 517. See also 
Major S. Carmichael Smyth, History of the Reigning Family of 
Lahore (1847), 85-6. 


report of him to his father. A slave-girl aged ten, 
spared as too young, begged to be included, and 
was allowed to join the other satis before the pile 
was lit. 

Next year occurred the most horrible of all these 
Sikh suttees. Raja Suchet Singh, famous for his 
personal beauty and gallant bearing, attempted the 
throne, but was slain on March 27, 1844, after a fight 
in which he and his companions showed wonderful 
prowess. It was followed by suttees suitable to the 
rank and valour of the slain. Eleven women died 
with Kishari Singh, five with Basanta Singh, eleven 
with Nihal Singh * ; but with Suchet Singh, the leader, 
ten wives and three hundred concubines were burnt. 

" some at Lahore, a hundred and fifty at Ramnagar, where 
his head was brought, and the others at Jammu or their 
own homes." * 

These suttees were scattered over a wide area and 
the time was one of utter confusion, so that the case 
does not seem to have attracted the attention of 
British India till afterwards, nor the appalling scale 
of the sacrifice to have been known till Frederic 
Drew in his travels learnt it. The evidence, which 
comes from many sources, is so contradictory that 
neither the Oxford History's statement nor that of 
Vincent Smith's authority, Sir Lepel Griffin, can be 

* W. L. M'Gregor, The History of the Sikhs (1846), li. 29. He 
gives forty-five as the number of suttees with Suchet Singh. 
1 Gnffin, Ranjit Singh, 65. 


taken as without exaggeration. But it is certain that 
the satis were very many, and the funeral ceremonies 
burnt themselves into the Sikh memory and are still 
talked of. 

On December 21, 1844, Suchet Singh's conqueror, 
Hira Singh, son of Dhyan Singh, was killed, and 
burned with twenty-four 1 satis at Parmandal, near 
Jammu. His funeral was described to Drew by an 
eye-witness : 

" There was a large square stage made, built up of 
faggots, with a rough roof raised over it ; between the faggots 
*ghi, that is clarified butter, was placed, to increase the 
violence of the flames The women, twenty-two in number, 
were seated on the platform; the wood was fired, and the 
burning was finished without a scream or a voice being 
heard from them." a 

Less than a year later, Hira Singh's conqueror, 
Jawahir Singh, whom Sir Lepel Griffin calls " debauched 
and infamous " 3 though it is hard to see how any 
one of the Sikh leaders in these years could claim 
the pre-eminence in turpitude that such epithets 
imply was executed by the soldiery, who " rightly 
suspected him of treachery to the Khalsa." 4 His 
body was burnt on the plain outside the Lahore fort 
on September 22, 1845. Two wives and three slave- 
girls became satis. They begged for their lives, but 
were forced in procession between the army's ranks 

1 Viscount Hardmge, Lord Hardinge (" Rulers of India" ), 165 
* The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories (1875), 52. 
3 Ranjit Singh, 65. 4 


The trays from which they were to make the sati's 
customary distribution of jewels and money were 
snatched from their attendants, their own personal 
ornaments taken, and even their ear-rings torn out. 
We are told that the pillage continued even after 
the pyre had been lit, and that soldiers tried to 
rescue the gold fringing of the women's trousers, and 
that even in the flames one of the satis rose and 
cursed her persecutors. The satis 9 cries and appeals 
on the way to the pile were answered with jest and 
ribaldry. For a crime so terrible and open, the 
slaughter of the Khalsa in its war with the British 
a few months later seemed a just retribution. 

" A sati is considered a sacred object among Hindus, and 
her last words prophetic At the feet of these wretched 
women, Raja Dina Nath, who was officially present on behalf 
of the Rani, and many others fell down, imploring their 
blessings. The satis blessed him and the Maharaja, but 
cursed the army of the Khalsa. When asked the fate of the 
Punjab, they answered that during the year the country 
would lose its independence, the Khalsa be overthrown, and 
the wives of the men of the army would be widows They 
were then forced into the flames of the funeral pile ; but the 
prophecy came true, and no curse was more amply fulfilled." * 

This scene had behind it a woman's cruelty. The 
wazir, whose execution had been irregular and sudden, 
was brother of Rani Jindan equally entitled with 
him to the adjective "infamous/' His death filled 
her with the wildest passion of grief, and she was 

* For this and the next two quotations see Griffin, Ranji 
S^ngh > 65-67, 


resolved that his funeral should be one with all 
honours ; but the army let their loathing of the 
dead man vent itself on the miserable chattels that 
his sister drove into the flames with him. It is 
pleasant to close the story of the Sikh suttees by an 
example which shows how loyalty and deep affection, 
when the object was worthy, could transfigure even 
this awful sacrifice. Sir Lepel Griffin, contrasting the 
last two suttees, says : 

" The last two widow-burnings in the Punjab were 
remarkable as showing this curious Hindu custom at its 
worst and at its best ; in other words, where the victims 
were brutally murdered in the name of religion, or where 
they voluntarily and cheerfully met the death of fire as 
the glorious crown of a life of self-sacrifice and devotion " 

I will tell the story of the last * Pan jab suttee in his 
words ; it is that of the widow of Sardar Sham Singh, 
one of the noblest and best of the Sikhs, who was 
killed at Sobraon (February 10, 1846) : 

" He had denounced the war with the English, and well 
foresaw what its termination must be. But he resolved to 
fight for the Khalsa, and on the night before Sobraon he 
swore on the Granth never to leave the field defeated. In 
the morning he dressed himself in white, and, having 
mounted his white mare, addressed his men, begging them, 
as true sons of the Khalsa, to die rather than yield. During 
the first part of the battle he was everywhere present, urging 

* So Griffin called it in 1898, and the Oxford History of India 
follows him. But it cannot have been, since it is understood 
that the Lawrences had great difficulty in suppressing suttee after 
the British occupation, though no writer gives any evidence of 
this. But see a letter by Henry Lawrence, written November 15, 
1846 (Life, 11. So), which shows it still survived. 


the Sikhs to fight bravely ; and it was not till he saw that 
all was lost that he spurred forward against the 5oth Regi- 
ment, waving his sword and calling on his men to follow 
him. Some fifty of them obeyed the call, but were driven 
into the river Sutlej, and Sham Singh fell dead from his 
horse, pierced with seven bullets. After the battle his 
servants begged permission to search for his body. The 
old Sirdar, conspicuous by his white dress and long white 
beard, was discovered where the dead lay thickest. His 
servants placed the body on a raft and swam with it across 
the river ; but it was not till the third day that it reached 
his home at Attari. His widow, who knew his resolution 
not to survive defeat, had already burnt herself with the 
clothes which the Sirdar had worn on his wedding-day. 
This was the last sail in the Punjab, and the pillar which 
marks the spot where it took place is still standing outside 
the walls of Attari/ 1 

During these last years of suttee in the Panjab 
it was equally prevalent in the states that lay between 
the Sikh kingdom and the British Raj. Some of 
these were tiny ones hidden in the Himalayas and 
at the doors of Simla ; but three, the " Phulkian " 
states, 1 were Sikh states. The Phulkian states had 
accepted alliance with the British ; but, with a storm 
obviously beating up from beyond the Sutlej, it was 
not advisable to press reforms upon them. Never- 
theless, in 1833 the Patiala Agent drew the Maharaja's 
attention to suttees that had occurred in that state 
on May 20th and 3ist ; they had occurred close to 
Subathu, which had been a British cantonment since 
the Nepal war, though still part of Patiala. British 
prestige suffered when a rite forbidden by British 
* Nabha, Patiala, Jhind. 


law took place so near British settlements. The 
Maharaja, to placate the Agent, fined those respon- 
sible, though their action had been quite legal. 

Suttee in Mandi, a Pan jab hill state whose capital 
is less than fifty miles in a direct line from Simla, 
forced itself on British attention in these years. Sir 
William Lee- Warner and Viscount Hardinge both cite 
the burning of twelve women with a Mandi Raja as 
an outstanding case that troubled people who heard 
of it. Sir William gives no date, but his context 
implies that it happened between 1829 an( i *&35 l > 
whilst Lord Hardinge definitely states * that it was 
in the Governor-Generalship of his relative, the first 
Lord Hardinge, 1844-1848. But only one Raja of 
Mandi died between 1829 and 1851 ; his death was in 
1839, an( i we find our firm ground of evidence with 
G. T. Vigne, who in that year witnessed 3 a suttee in 
Mandi, a short time after the last ruler's funeral. 
He appealed in vain to the Raja to prevent the 
sacrifice. The Raja next day called upon him and 
explained that he could not interfere in such affairs ; 
he was very affable, and they went on to discuss 
suttee as an adjunct of royal funerals : 

" The Rajah also told me that the omission of the ceremony 
would be looked upon as an act of disrespect to the memory 
of a deceased Rajah ; and of the truth of his assertion there 
could be no doubt. I had seen the tombs of the Rajahs 

1 The Native States of India, 304. 

- Lord Hardinge ('* Rulers of India "), 165. 

3 I have quoted part of his account in the Appendix. 


of Mundi by the roadside, a few hundred yards from the 
entrance to the town. The place of their ashes is marked 
by a long, narrow stone slab, standing upright in the ground, 
and on each of them is sculptured, in relief, a small sitting 
figure of the deceased, attended by other figures m the same 
attitude, purporting to represent the satis who were burnt 
with him The number of female figures varied, but none 
of the later Rajahs had fewer than twenty disposed in rows 
above and below him The late Rajah had been dead but 
three months, and the puppet representations of no less 
than twenty-five women who had been burnt with him 
were evidently freshly produced by the rude chisel of the 
Mundi sculptor." z 

After Sobraon the Sikh Government surrendered, 
and Sir Henry Lawrence was appointed Resident and 
President of a Council of Regency, the Maharaja being 
under age. Lawrence was the real ruler, and attempted 
" to conduct the administration on more or less 
civilized lines/' * Suttee, accordingly, disappeared 
from the Pan jab, though not at once. 

It disappeared also from all but one of the minor 
Sikh states, and from the nest of petty hill states. 
Already, on April 12, 1843, the Thakur of Tiroj, 
accepting the British Government as entitled to 
settle a succession quarrel, had received a sanad 
from it and promised to suppress suttee. At the 
close of the first Sikh war the same engagement was 
required both from those states on the upper Sutlej 
that had been under British protection before and 
from those that had only now exchanged the over- 

1 Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, I skew do (1842), 85. 
3 Oxford History of India, 695. 



lordship of Lahore for that of Calcutta. On October 24, 
1846, the Rajas of S'uket and of Mandi promised to 
abolish suttee. The engagements entered into by these 
fierce little kingdoms usually discriminated against 
more than suttee with reason. Thus the Raja of 
Mandi promised : 

" He shall so put a stop to the practices of slave-dealing, 
suttee, female infanticide, and the burning or drowning of 
lepers, which are opposed to British laws, that no one shall 
venture in future to revive them." * 

Often mutilation was added to the list of practices 

Between September 1847 and April 1848, Patiala, 
Bilaspur, Faridkot, Jhind, and Chamba all promised 
to forbid suttee and its kindred abominations. One 
Sikh state, Nabha, apparently did not promise until 
May 5, 1860. 


Meanwhile in Rajasthan suttee continued almost 
unchecked, Udaipur retaining its sombre pre-eminence. 
A writer in the Asiatic Journal, 1835, describing the 
city, speaks of the rite as in its immemorial abundant 
practice. " Those whose minds are made up " loosed 
their tresses and emptied a pot of \^aer over them ; 
after this there was no retreat from the pyre. The 
state, as for many years previously, and as it was to 
continue for another thirty years, until the British 

1 Treaties, Engagement$, and Sunnuds> vi. 144, 


Government imperiously called both parties to order, 
was the scene of incessant squabbles between the 
Maharana and his nobles; the country remained 
impoverished, with its internal resources wasting and 
its tribute heavily in arrears and its administration 
backward and bigoted. One extravagant and de- 
bauched ruler succeeded to another. On March 31, 
1828, Maharana Bhim Singh died, 

" having learnt neither humility from affliction nor wisdom 
frnm poverty, lie held fast by his faults and weaknesses 
to his death, am! he was accompanied to the funeral pyre 
by {our wives and four concubines/' * 

His successor,, Jawan Singh, gave himself up to ten 
years of vice and debauchery. His funeral rites call 
for something more than passing mention. 

** On thfc ^oth of Attgust, 1838, the princely city of Oody- 
IMIII? WUH the scfRC of a terrible solemnity. About midday 
& prolonged discharge of artillery from the fort announced 
thr* imc&pccttid decease of Maharana Juwan Singh; and, 
tin i visual in tropical climates, preparations for his obsequies 
immrtliatdy commenced. The palace gate was thronged 
with the exultant populace. Something, however, in the 
excitement of their voices and gestures boded the approach 
l n jipactacitt more thrilling than mere pomp could render 
tv*n j* royal funeral* It was not the dead alone whom the 
ti*g**r crwii w^re waiting to see pass from among them. 
Sculptured in tart!ing abundance on the tombs of their 
rtitor*, the welt-known effigies of women's feet gave ghastly 
MUffanee that a prince of Oodypore would not that day 
to gathered to his fathers without a wife, or a concubine, 
hta pyre, the only question was how many ? It 

& Guatiit** Mtwar Agency. The Resident at 
to Fort Willkm (Calcutta) OXL April 9, 1828, says 
&f$d otic favourite concubine. 


was known that the youngest of the two queens came of a 
family in which the rite was rarely practised ; while the 
suddenness of the Maharana's death had given but scanty 
time for any of his inferior women to mature so tremendous 
a resolution. Great, therefore, was the admiration of the 
multitude when they learnt that, immediately on the fatal 
tidings reaching the zenana, both the queens and six out of 
seven concubines had determined to burn. . . . 

" The eight victims, dressed in their richest attire and 
mounted on horseback, moved with the procession to the 
cemetery There they stripped off their ornaments and 
jewels, distributed gifts to the bystanders, and lastly, 
mounting the pile, took their places beside the corpse. As 
the Maharana had left no son, his nephew, the present 
sovereign, applied the torch. The crash of music, the chanting 
of the priests, and the cries of the multitude arose simul- 
taneously, and the tragedy was consummated ' The father 
of one of the queens ' (concludes the native report) ' was 
present during the whole. He is here immersed m contempla- 
tion and grief, and his companions are comforting him/ " * 

Lord Auckland, through the Resident at Udaipur, 
unofficially expressed displeasure at the barbarity 
and at the prominent part taken by the new Rana. 
Udaipur shrugged its shoulders and went its blood- 
strewn way. Four years later the new Maharana, 
Sardar Singh, died. Again it was unthinkable that a 
Chief of Mewar should go to the pyre without " the 
dreadful honours of the sail sacrifice/' a But his 

1 H. J. Bushby, Widow-Burning, 5-6. The author makes 
certain mistakes. For example, when his book was published 
(1855) the Maharana was the successor of the one who applied 
the torch. Also, nine women became satis, and not eight. And 
" women's feet " mark the suttee memorials of the Maratha 
country, rarely those of Rajasthan. 

3 Cunningham's phrase in connection with the funeral of 
Jawamr Singh (History of the Sikhs, edited by H. L. O. Garrett, 
Clarendon Press, 272}. 


reign had been one of incessant quarrelling with his 
nobles, who strongly disliked him, and 

"his personal unpopularity was emphasized, even when he 
was no longer among the living, by none save one lady 
consenting to be burned with his corpse " * 

The Guidebook's euphemism veils the plain fact 
that public opinion would not have tolerated that a 
Rana's funeral should be one of his dead body alone, 
without a female chattel to keep it company. The 
growing unwillingness to burn manifested at this 
time by Indian ladies, even by Sikh and Rajput 
ladies, shows that they were influenced by the know- 
ledge that outside their narrow barbarous world was 
an India from which suttee had passed away. 

On September 5, 1843, Man Singh, Maharaja of 
Jodhpur, died. One lady with the rank of queen, 
four concubines and a slave-girl burned with him. 
The reader of Tod will remember this Man Singh and 
the part he had played in the miseries of Rajasthan 
thirty-seven years previously. He had lingered on 
into this new age, when the old India was breaking 
up, and his death-pomp was with the rites of that 
older world. That older world had yet another 
fourteen years of shorn and uncertain existence to 
run before the Mutiny swept it away and modern 
India came into being. 

The Rajputs have had " a good press " in the 
West, but it is nothing to the press they have had 

1 Udaifiur Guidebook. 


in India. The heroic and terrible history and legends 
of Mewar furnish the stuff for the most popular plays 
of vernacular theatres, especially among the peaceable 
but (in their literature) gore-loving Bengalis. These 
plays, and the kindred novels, treat their themes in 
a mood of imbecile exultation and adoration. So far 
as I have had means to judge, no' breath of criticism 
or sanity has yet blown in upon Indian thought 
where Raj as than is concerned. The story, as Indian 
writers tell it, is without human interest, the dramas 
are without probability, character-differentiation, 
poetry, or common sense. Once the story of Rajasthan 
is faced by minds really moving in this modern world, 
that story will produce plays and fiction which will 
cause the extant trash to be tossed on the rubbish- 
heap where it belongs. Indian writers pay no true 
homage to the valour of Rajasthan, and no just tribute 
to the pity of its fate, when they represent its people 
as demigods with the minds of savage children. 

It was this idealization of Udaipur that made the 
efforts of the British Government to extirpate suttee 
in native states so slow in meeting with success. For, 

" whatever a Hindoo knows of chivalry or nationality, he 
deems to be exemplified in this model race. Since, therefore, 
Rajpoots were renowned for the frequency of their suttees, 
the great independent states thought it beneath their 
orthodoxy to return any other answer to the remonstrances" 
of the British Government against the rite than that ' it 
would be time enough for them to prohibit it when Rajpootana 
led the way/ " x 

1 Bizshby, n. 


But, as in the years preceding Bentinck's abolition 
of the sacrifice, so now, individual officers were some- 
times able to do more than Government felt entitled 
to attempt. The Resident at Kotah obtained an 
evasive promise from the Raja that he would do his 
best to stop the rite. A few months later, on 
October 29, 1840, the Raja refused to act, and a 
Brahman's widow burned. The first substantial 
Rajput success came at Jaipur. Major Ludlow, in 
the Maharaja's minority, was President of the Council 
of Regency. He first persuaded the Rajput states 
to abolish female infanticide ; then, in 1846, after 
long endeavour, his tact and personal popularity won 
the Jaipur Council over as to "suttee also. Already 
some of the powerful Jaipur nobles had suppressed 
it in their own territories ; but his success with the 
Council took everybody by surprise, his predecessor as 
Resident most of all. Lord Hardinge, the Governor- 
General, notified the prohibition in the Gazette, Sep- 
tember 22, 1846, thanking Ludlow for his service. 
The example set by Jaipur, a state second only to 
Udaipur in influence, was quickly followed. Before 
Christmas 1846 eleven of the eighteen Rajput states 
and five independent states outside Rajasthan forbade 
suttee. Kotah suppressed it next year (March 1847), 
and Jodhpur in the time of Hardinge's successor, 
Dalhousie. The reader, noting these dates, will note 
also that the end of the first Sikh war opened on a 
period of very vigorous administrative activitv, when 


every effort was made to stamp out surviving inhu- 
manities. The fact that the British had defeated 
the great Sikh confederacy strengthened their prestige 
enormously, and made even Rajput states willing to 
meet their prejudices. In fact, it is not too much to 
say that it was the victory over the Khalsa that 
alone made any sort of move against suttee in 
Raj as than possible at all. From first to last Rajasthan 
had been the metropolis of the rite, as it had almost 
certainly been the original home from which it had 
spread over India millenniums before. The Sikh prac- 
tice of suttee had been an aberration, contrary to the 
teaching of some of their Gurus. Outside Rajasthan, 
the ruling families of Rewa Kanta, as well as those 
of Idar and Ahmadnagar, were nearly all Rajput ; I 
and it was only the accident of these states being near 
enough to cause annoyance to the Bombay Govern- 
ment by encouraging British subjects in the forbidden 
practice that had led to interference in Rewa Kanta. 
If the honour of the abolition within British India 
is Bentinck's, that of the final suppression of suttee 
by native states is largely Dalhousie's. Though 
practically no promises were made in his time, he 
insisted that promises already made must be kept, 
and those who broke them punished. To the extreme 
limits of his power he acted with ruthless vigour. 
The ruthlessness was necessary, for in the Rajput 
tradition, along with magnificent qualities, was a 
1 The ruling race in Nepal is Rajput by origin. 


barbarism so deep-rooted that only a sterner fierceness 
could extirpate it. The Encyclopedia Britannica says 
that in native states " suttee he kept down with an 
iron hand/' x Like almost every statement on the 
subject, this needs qualification, which Dalhousie's 
own Minute of February 28, 1856 (paragraph 146), 
reviewing his administration, supplies : 

" The prohibition of suttee by the British Government 
is now a familiar tale. In the time of those who preceded 
me great progress had been made in persuading all native 
princes to unite in denouncing the rite and in punishing 
those who should disregard the prohibition. The Govern- 
ment of India, since 1848, has had only to follow up the 
measures of preceding years When suttee has occurred in 
an independent state, no opportunity of remonstrating has 
been lost. When it has occurred in any district which was 
within our control, no indulgence has been shown to the 
culprits. Thus renewed remonstrances have been addressed 
to Ulwar, Beeckaneer and Oodeypore ; but in Doongur- 
pore, a British state under our direct management, where a 
thakoor's son took part in a suttee, the son and a Brahmin 
who abetted his crime were condemned to imprisonment 
for three years in irons ; while the thakoor himself, for the 
same three years, was mulcted in half the revenue of his 
possession. The performance of suttee is now a rare occur- 
rence, either in Mahomedan or native states/' 

Dungarpur, a tiny Rajput state, was temporarily 
dependent on the Imperial authority, its chief being 
a minor. But I cannot find the proof, with regard 
to the three powerful recalcitrant states, Udaipur, 
Alwar, and Bikanir, either of the Encyclopedia Britan- 
nica' s statement or of Trotter's : 

* Article " Dalhousie." 


" In Udaipur, Alwar, and Bikanir, Lord Dalhousie J 's inter- 
ference took the form of threats, which the native princes 
and chiefs had the wisdom to accept as positive commands " x 

In the case of Alwar and Bikanir, the support of 
suttee was one of theory rather than of practice. 3 
Before Dalhousie came, Alwar had abandoned the rite 
at the funeral of its rulers ; and in Bikanir the last 
"distinguished satt"3 was Dip Kunwar, a daughter 
of the Udaipur ruling family and wife of Maharaja 
Surat Singh's second son, Moti Singh. She died in 
1825, and a fair is still held in her honour at Devi 
Kund, a village five miles east of Bikanir. But so 
long as suttee was legal it was bound to occur ; it 
continued to occur even in parts of Rajasthan where 
it was forbidden, as when the sister-in-law of the 
Bhinai Raja burned in Ajmer in 1857. She exercised 
a saK's immemorial right of curse and blessing, for 
the Brahmans who attended her to the pyre begged 
her to pronounce against the unpopular cess with 
which the British Agent supported the schools. In 
1857 the British Government was in no case to take 
the field against suttee in loyal states, even when it 
was forbidden by law. The saK won a victory for 
her people ; the cess was withdrawn. 

Whatever assurance Dalhousie may have thought 
he had obtained from Udaipur, after he had gone 

* India under Victoria, i. 258. 

* This was true of every Indian state except Udaipur (and, 
of course, Nepal) in 1855. 

3 Imperial Gazetteer of India (1908). 


the state swung back, and in 1861 Maharana Sarup 
Singh's funeral was disgraced by the murder of a 
slave-girl. More than thirty years had passed since 
suttee had been made illegal in British India, and 
eighteen since slavery had been abolished. This 
sacrifice may be the one Mr. Kipling had in mind 
in his poem, The Last Suttee, but there is no resem- 
blance between the two stories except the fact that 
a slave-girl died. In every other detail they con- 
tradict each other utterly, and the geography of his 
poem, though picturesque, is absurd, making the 
Boondi King lord of many lands to which he had 
no manner of claim and which were far from his own. 
I mention this, not as criticizing Mr. Kipling, but 
because readers seem to think that his poem gives a 
historical account of a real suttee, and that one the 
last. As the last suttee at the funeral of a reigning 
chief of protected India, the Udaipur one deserves 
that we should read of it in a nearly contemporary 
official document. 

" After the demise of the last Maharana of Udaipur, the 
first Hindu prince of India, the acknowledged head of the 
Rajputs, and the ruler of a principality wherein ancient 
customs and usages are cherished more religiously than 
perhaps in any other State, each wife was successively asked 
to preserve the honour of the Sesodia tribe, the chief of 
which had never burnt alone. One and all most positively 
declined, and a favourite slave-girl was then appealed to 
by her brother 1 In speaking to the wretched girl, he dwelt 
strongly upon the fact that all the late chief's lawfully 
married queens had refused to preserve the honour of the 


house, and that the greater credit would redound upon her 
were she prepared to set an example of devotion to those 
who so wilfully declined to evince any themselves ; that 
their perversity, in short, had afforded her an opportunity 
to earn a world-wide reputation for fidelity, which it were 
madness to neglect. His arguments prevailed. . . . The 
royal corpse, dressed up in regal attire, was conveyed from 
the palace to the burning-place (called the Mahasati) in a 
species of sedan-chair; the funeral procession, composed 
of all loyal subjects of the state, one and all, high and low, 
even the successor to the throne, proceeded the whole 
distance on foot; one alone in this vast multitude was 
allowed to ride, and she had but a short time to live. 
Mounted on a gorgeously caparisoned horse, herself richly 
attired as for a festive occasion, literally covered with jewels 
and costly ornaments, her hair loose and in disorder, her 
whole countenance wild with the excitement of the scene 
and the intoxicating effects of the drugs she had swallowed, 
she issued forth with the body. As customary on such 
occasions, the victim, as the procession moved on, unclasped 
the ornaments with which she was profusely decorated and 
flung them to the nght and to the left amongst the crowd. 
On reaching the Mahasati, in a space enclosed by tent walls, 
the corpse was unrobed, and the slave-girl, seating herself 
with the head of the lifeless body in her lap, was built up, 
as it were, with wood steeped in oil The kanats, or canvas 
walls, were then removed and the pyre lighted ; and as the 
flame shot up bright and fierce the crowd around raised a 
great clamour, which lasted until the dreadful scene was 
over. . . . 

" Shocking as this sail was felt to be, the fact that every 
wife had, for the first time in the annals of Mewar, declined 
to die on such an occasion cannot but react favourably on 
the feelings and sentiments of other Rajput families." * 

The Mutiny was one of those rare episodes that are 
not only impressive in themselves, but mark the end 

1 Report on the Political Administration of Rajputana> 1865-1867. 
by Colonel W. F. Eden, Agent of the Governor-General. 


of an era. It left the native chieftains dependent 
on the paramount Power as they had never been 
before no longer princes, but at best barons. Those 
that kept their status were those that had shown 
themselves friendly to the British Raj ; their salutes 
were augmented, but no additional ceremonial could 
keep their real importance undiminished. Inevitably, 
popular sympathy had been with the insurgents, and 
those chieftains who had helped the British were 
aware that they were out of favour with their country, 
even with their own subjects. They had to draw 
closer to the protecting Power, and in subtle ways 
this sense of dependence moulded even their deepest 
and oldest prejudices. They could not ignore the 
strong feeling of the British Government even in such 
an immemorial custom as suttee. The Udaipur suttee 
of 1861 was an isolated instancethe last. It was 
possible, partly because during the Mutiny Udaipur, 
by giving asylum to British families, had established 
a claim on the gratitude of the Supreme Government, 
partly because the state was in a condition almost of 
anarchy, in which old traditions alone were powerful 
and no one could be made responsible. Between 
1860 and 1862 the British Government overhauled 
its relations with the native states ; sanads were 
given> guaranteeing and defining the status of each, 
and engagements were taken. The lesser states 
fenewed their promises to prohibit suttee ; and, 
such a promise was not required explicitly 


from the greater states, we may take it that it was 
understood between the contracting parties that suttee 
was to cease. Sarup Singh was succeeded in Udaipur 
by a minor, and the real power rested with the 
Political Agent ; even so, the Council was found 
inefficient and unsatisfactory, so that it was " found 
necessary to entrust greater power to the Agent," * 
who proceeded to introduce many reforms and to 
pull the state out of its long-continued anarchy. 
The revenues were managed so economically, that 
when the Rana took over the government, in November 
1865, there was a balance in the treasury; life and 
property were made secure, and the law courts over- 
hauled. The fourteen first-class nobles now try all 
cases of crime or complaint in which both parties 
are their subjects ; but cases of murder, satt, highway 
robbery with violence, traffic in children, and coining 
have to be reported, and the barons 7 decisions sub- 
mitted for the Maharana's approval. 

We are justified, then, in taking 1862 as the 
approximate date when suttee became illegal in 
Rajasthan and in states where it had already fallen 
into desuetude Kashmir, Bhopal, and Bharatpur. 
It became " illegal " in this sense, that the paramount 
Power would not have tolerated its continued exist- 
ence ; and it ceased because Rajput ladies refused to 
mount the pyre. 

The story of the suppression of suttee in native 

1 Rajputana Gazetteer, Mewar Residency. 


states is one of the minor stories of Indian history, 
and one that has never been told, partly because 
the Imperial Government keeps its correspondence 
with the greater states strictly secret, and the tale of 
what happened is scattered 'over many hundreds of 
memoirs, district gazetteers, and contemporary news- 
papers, most of which have long ago perished and 
survive only in some quoted scrap. The story has 
not the obvious importance that attaches to that of 
a great campaign in the field, but I think that there 
is no story that more clearly brings out the watch- 
fulness and courage that were required in the thirty 
years during which British officers, bound by their 
instructions which were rarely exceeded, and then 
only for such terrible reason as Erskine had at 
Ahmadnagar not to go beyond verbal and diplo- 
matic protest, slowly and patiently persuaded princes 
to abandon their most cherished honour. If the 
British Government were needlessly timid in pro- 
hibiting suttee in British India, and delayed this act 
of humanity by many unnecessary years, they made 
amends by the persistence with which they took their 
opportunities in the native states in the thirty years 
following their own prohibition. 



THOUGH 1861 was the date of the last suttee at the 
funeral of a ruling prince, the rite died hard, and 
often swelled the death-pomp of a Rajput thdkur or 
baron. The late Colonel Eckford Luard gave me 
the note : 

" Before our greater interference in state af airs had come 
say, from 1880 on thakurs, especially big landholders, 
were practically independent within their estates. Now this 
is no longer so, as state administrations are assimilating 
themselves to ours far too much so, I think ! They are 
losing that elasticity, wrongly called 'want of efficiency/ 
which is really the human touch in administration even if in 
some directions it is occasionally rather perverted humanity ! " 

I give some examples of the Rajput suttees that 
sprinkle the last forty years of the century. I have 
referred to the remarkable one in Ajmer in 1857. 
In 1862 there was a sail at the funeral of the thdkur 
of Rewa in Sirohi ; the persons responsible were 
punished by imprisonment. In June 1864 the widow 
of the son of the thdkur of Begun, in Udaipur, was 
burnt, as was the widow of Sham Singh, the thdkur 
of Utarna, in Jaipur, in 1883. The latter instance 
resulted in sentences of seven years' rigorous im- 


prisonment for the sons and brothers of the husband 
and three years for minor accomplices. The last 
suttee in Central India took place in the Rajput 
state of Datia x in 1895. 

There have been suttees in other states also. I 
mention two late occurrences of the rite. On Octo- 
ber i, 1853, the widow of the Waghela chief of Aluwa, 
in Kuri, a district in the Gaekwar's dominions, 
burned ; and in 1860 there was a suttee of extreme 
atrocity near Guna, in Gwalior. The widow's reso- 
lution failed her, and she escaped from the burning 
pile ; the spectators struck her with sticks and twice 
wounded her with swords, but she was maddened 
and managed to hide in reeds on the banks of the 
river Parvati. She was discovered, dragged out, and 


The learned Judge who tried the appeal of Ram 
Dayal before the Allahabad High Court in 1913 
noted that 

" the Regulation of 1829 seems to have had immediate 
effect, and the practice was almost completely stamped 
out. In fact, I can only find three reported cases of safi 
in the Law Reports for these provinces and for Bengal since 
that date. They occurred in 1834, 1854, and 1871." 

I do not understand this summary ; illegal suttee 
was much commoner than this, especially if we 

1 For this information I am indebted to Colonel Luard 


include cases followed by no prosecution. In the 
first few years after prohibition it might almost be 
called common. 

Mr. Coomaraswamy, in a footnote to the passage 
that I have quoted at the beginning of this study, 
reminds us : 

"'Social conventions' are rarely 'wcw-made laws* 
alone." * 

That is true ; and when suttee was first prohibited, 
widows, disconsolate at deprivation of the right to 
burn with their husbands, sometimes starved them- 
selves to death. The Chandrika composed some 
suitable elegiacs on one such case that occurred in 
Bengal in 1830 : 

" Words cannot express the distress we have felt on 
hearing this intelligence ; for in this case a virtuous and 
faithful wife has given up life, after great mental compunction, 
through the irresistible prohibitions imposed in regard of 
suttees by Government. Yet this virtuous woman after her 
death has attained felicity, for the husband is the only 
instructor, the only God of a wife ; for that blessed woman, 
overwhelmed with various anxieties, though she was not 
able to burn her own body with that of her husband, reflecting 
on her husband's feet as though they were her tutelary 
deity, has liberated herself from the body by refusing food. 
Yet it is a matter of the deepest regret to us. How the 
children to whom she gave birth are able now to drag on 
their existence it is beyond our power to say. . . , What 
shall we say to them ? It was beyond their power to burn 
their mother. It is customary for those in deep distress 
to make it known to the sovereign ; but the sovereign of 
this country is himself become the destroyer of this practice.'* 

* Tk? Lance of Siva, 91. 


But our old friend the Kaumudi, on October 
of the same year, brought forward another case, in 
which the widow had stopped short of tragedy : 

' After two days her hunger overcame her sorrow, and 
she with much importunity and distress requested some 
food, which was brought to her immediately. From that 
day she has remained contentedly with her family and 
busied herself with the work of the house/' 

To show how stubbornly suttee persisted I give a 
few examples from the early days of prohibition. 
In January 1830, in the Tirhut zila of Patna, a 
widow appealed to the ddrogd (head constable) who 
tried to stop her from the pile and won him over. 
She burned herself, and the ddroga lost his post. 
There were suttees at Ratnagiri (February 1830) ; 
Chibotu, in Patna (May 10, 1830) ; Madhurikand, 
thirty-five miles north-east of Agra (September 16, 
1831) ; near Gaya in 1832 ; at Muttra (May 13, 1833). 
The reader should note the frequency with which 
places in Bihar recur in connection with suttee ; the 
district has had several suttees in the present century. 
The Madhurikand case resulted in a prosecution ; 
three men were sentenced to seven years' imprison- 
ment, two to five years'. But the High Court reduced 
the sentences, and the Governor-General pardoned 
all except one of the accused, who was cap- 
tured after absconding and received a year's hard 
labour, Next year, 1832, the first case from Bengal 
to be tried under the new Regulation reached the 


courts ; the accused pleaded, and the plea was 
allowed, that the village authorities had not pro- 
mulgated the Regulation. But the excuse that they 
did not know that suttee was illegal was pushed 
aside by a higher court. Ultimately Lord Bentinck 
pardoned them personally. 

In these early years of prohibition the name of 
Angria's Kolaba frequently occurs. This is an island 
twenty miles from Bombay, formerly the haunt of a 
pirate chief Angria. For many years, as I have 
mentioned in Chapter VIII, widows from Bombay 
and other British territory were taken here and burnt. 
I find such instances in contemporary newspapers 
mentioned as having occurred in August 1830 and 
in 1834. The Bombay Gazette, commenting on the 
latter case, says that the practice was common. The 
chieftains ruling other adjacent territories gave the same 
hospitality to suttee, as we have seen. 

In addition to the few cases that reached the law 
courts, or were authenticated by clear report, there 
can be no doubt that suttee often occurred undetected 
and unpunished. A missionary writes (June 27, 1845) : 

" A sliort time since a suti was performed in a village 
near, almost under the eyes of the authorities, yet the 
murderers could not be found out." * 

Careful search shows suttee, though quickly growing 
rare, still from time to time recurring. I have found 

1 Memoir of J. J. Weitbrecht, 139, K[e is writing of the 
clistrict of 


one case in the Mutiny area during the Mutiny period 
a bad case in the Farakhabad district in 1858. 
Suttee has persisted into the present century. Bihar 
had cases in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905 ; there was one 
in a small village in the Panjab in 1905 ; and in 1906 
there were suttees at Cawnpore and in Calcutta. 
Sixteen persons were charged in connection with the 
1903 Bihar case, which occurred in the village of 
Kaltaki, Gaya district. In the 1904 case, which was 
a suttee in the Patna district, 

" Among the articles in evidence " (i.e at the trial) " there 
was an invitation issued by the son to the sraddha m which 
it was stated that his father was dead and his mother had 
become a satti Another document showed the line of defence 
to be taken in case of prosecution " * 

That line of defence was the usual one one that 
came up frequently even before Bentinck's Regulation 
of 1829, whenever some illegality of detail brought 
the supervisors of a suttee into court: the widow 
had persisted in burning herself and had perished by 
spontaneous combustion, which was supposed to 
occur with exceptionally holy satis. But it was made 
clear that the spectators provided a great deal of 
assistance by pouring ghi and other inflammable 
substances on the widow and by throwing wood on 
the bodies. What cannot be considered too deeply 
is that no one considered he had done anything 
wrong by helping in the act, and that these suttees 

* gir Andrew Fraser, Among Ind^an Rajahs and Ryots, 102, 


gave intense delight to Hindus who read of them 
and almost delirious pleasure to the spectators. 
Within a very few hours of the death of the Patna 
district saK a shrine had been made and lamps were 
burning in her honour ; booths and shops were erected 
to supply the needs of pilgrims. 

The classical instance of illegal suttee took place 
in the Allahabad district in 1913. I propose to treat 
this interesting case at some length, quoting and 
condensing from the judgment of the Court of Appeal. 

Ram Lai, a Brahman resident in the village of 
Jarauli, died early in the morning of June 27, 1913. 
He had been ill for some months, and his widow's 
intention to become a saK was well known. Her 
relations and neighbours failed to dissuade her, and 
sent the chaukidar to the police-station, eight miles 
away, to give warning. They meanwhile hurried on 
preparations for the funeral, and with quite unneces- 
sary haste completed the double burning before noon. 
The accused persons prepared the pyre, which the 
widow walked round seven times in orthodox fashion 
and then mounted. She then stripped off her orna- 
ments, which she threw into a cloth held by the two 
principal accused. She demanded ghi, which was given, 
and which she poured over herself and the pyre. 

Five persons were convicted, and the Sessions Judge 
sentenced Ram Dayal and Dodraj to two years* 
rigorous imprisonment and three minor offenders to 
one and a half vears. Thev annealed, and the Tudsre 


of the High Court issued notice to them to show 
cause why the sentences should not be enhanced. 
After re-trial, the lesser sentences were confirmed, and 
that on Ram Dayal and Dodraj enhanced to four 
years' rigorous imprisonment. 

The defence alleged gross negligence on the part 
of the police in arriving late, and that they them- 
selves had acted under fear, the saK having threatened 
to curse them if they withheld assistance. The 
morning that she died she had shown her chastity 
by many miraculous deeds she had held burning 
camphor in her two hands clapped together, she had 
smitten an impudent girl into a fit with a glance of 
her eyes and had restored her again, and she had 
made the rain cease at about nine o'clock. The 
sympathies of the witnesses were with the accused, 
and they refused to say who had fired the pile. The 
two principal accused 

admitted carrying out certain details under her orders ; 
but knew that these would be infructuous without the final 
act of setting fire, which they never did . . . Both the 
witnesses and the accused stated that when all was ready 
and the widow demanded fire, Ram Dayal and Dodraj refused 
to give it to her, telling her that if there were any virtue 
in her she could produce it for herself, whereupon she 
whispered into the ear of the corpse, and, raising her arms 
aloft, prayed to God, and shortly after the pyre burst into 

The learned Judge pointed out that the whole 
country-side had been roused, and that there were 


fifteen hundred to two thousand spectators, many of 
whom must have come from a distance. Further : 

A very little force would have been necessary to prevent 
the woman ascending the pyre. Moreover, it was not abso- 
lutely necessary to burn the corpse at so early an hour. 
Though information had been sent to the police, no serious 
attempt was made to await their arrival on the scene 
Sixteen miles had to be walked before they could arrive, 
and the accused must have known that no police officer 
could possibly arrive until after midday. . . . 

Any relaxation of the severity of the law in such a matter 
will result in the recurrence of the evil which took so many 
years to decrease to a minimum. The feelings and beliefs 
which prompt a sail still exist, and but little encouragement 

was needed to revive the rite. In conclusion : 

Sati may or may not be forbidden by the Hindu religion, 
but it was once a common practice, and the sympathies of 
the people, at least of the unenlightened people, are all with 
sati and it is looked upon as a meritorious deed. 

There have also been many instances of private 
suttee. Some of these have shown extraordinary 
determination, as one that occurred in the Tinneveli 
district of South India in 1876.* The widow dug a 
pit inside her house, filled it with sandalwood, and 
dressed herself as a bride ; she shut the doors, lit 
the pile, and leapt in. This case is the stranger in 
that Tinneveli is not a district where suttee lingered 
with any great persistence, though it is close to 
Madura and Tan j ore, where suttee had been an 
apanage of kings and nobles. 

i Globe. Tanuarv 10, 1877. 


The commonest form of irregular suttee is when a 
woman drenches her clothes with paraffin and burns 
herself in her own home. Such suttees have been 
fairly frequent. One occurred in Calcutta in 1911 ; 
there was a rush of hysterical women to the place 
to pick up relics, especially fragments of the vermilion 
lac. I well remember the imbecile enthusiasm of the 
Bengali press. 

No doubt there are suttees of this kind that never 
come to official notice, and these may sometimes be 
compulsory. Mrs. Sinclair-Stevenson, 1 asking what 
became of unwanted widows, often had the reply, 
" Paraffin is cheap." But I do not think such immo- 
lations are anything like as common as she fears, or 
as the latest writer on suttee, Mr. N. M. Penzer,* 
seems to think on her authority. And these are 
crimes on the borderland between suttee and ordinary 
brutal murder, and as such hardly call for more than 
slanting notice in this study, 

It is impossible to collect or collate all the evidence 
of illegal suttee in British India and native states ; 
but I think it would be easy to show that suttee, in 
one form or another, public or private and irregular, 
has occurred almost every year in some part of India 
between 1829 and 1913 ; and probably it will still 
occur, though at longer intervals. 

* See Rites of the Twice-Born, 207-8. 

See <f Suttee " essay in The Ocean of Story, vol. iv. 


IN Nepal, which is outside British jurisdiction, suttee 
is still legal Mr. W. Crooke, in 1906, writes that 
" the rite still survives." * But very little information 
about the country gets outside Nepal. 

Sir Jung Bahadur, the famous soldier and statesman 
who helped the British in the Mutiny, discountenanced 
suttee, so that the practice became rare; but his 
own funeral, in 1877, was a magnificent affair, with 
three satis. This is often said to have been the last 
instance of suttee in Nepal ; I am sure that it was 
not, but have no definite information. 

After its virtual extinction in India, suttee flourished 
still in the hinduized islands of Bali and Lombok, 
as it had formerly flourished in Java. Slaves were 
burnt, wives were burnt or, especially in Bali, 
butchered with the " kites," the Malay knife, Horrible 
accounts exist of widows slowly and clumsily 
slaughtered, the spectators indifferent or laughing. 
As in India, suttee was chiefly to glorify rajas, whose 
funerals were never without these sacrifices, to which 
priests' widows were not liable. The Encyclopedia 
Britannica speaks of suttee as still practised in these 

1 Things Indian, 449. 


islands ; so do other authorities, whom I quote with 
hesitation, as I doubt if they have more information 
than I have myself. "It is believed still to take 
place m noble families." * " The custom of widow- 
burning is still occasionally practised " a (in Bali). 

* Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism (1921), iii. 183 

* N. M. Penzer, in The Ocean of Story (1926), iv. 257. 


I HAVE not conducted this enquiry into an obscure 
subject from any love for the gruesome or the cruel, 
or only because in India the stories and traditions 
of suttee stirred profound pity in my mind and made 
me wish to win for its victims at least this post- 
humous justice, that their fate should not be mis- 
understood. I believe that the history of the rite 
sheds light on dark passages of Indian and British 
relations, and on certain periods and personalities of 
the last century ; also that conclusions of value for 
to-day can be drawn, 

Suttee, as Sir Vernon Lovett remarked to me, by 
arousing the disgust and abhorrence of Englishmen 
who saw it or were contemporary with it, caused 
them to do injustice to Indian thought. It was 
impossible to think of Indian civilization as anything 
but a barbarian civilization. Macaulay's often-abused 
Minute about the relative value of Sanskrit literature 
and of "a single shelf" of modern European books 
had this background of barbarities shadowing his 
mind. If it was a mistake to set Indian education 
on solely Western lines, it was a mistake for which 



Indians had themselves to thank, for the fruits of 
Hinduism a century ago were bad. As an Indian 
student of mine, a fervent Hindu, said to me, " A 
hundred years ago, not only Christian missionaries, 
but the early Brahmos also, thought that Hinduism 
was idolatrous." That is so ; they also thought it 
cruel. There is a simple explanation of both beliefs, 
strange as they seem to neo-Hindus and theosophists 
to-day. Hinduism was what it seemed to be. 

There were many other barbarities practised in 
India a century ago ; but some might be dismissed 
as mere superstition, or as the crimes of backward 
tribes and perverted sects of Hinduism, such as those 
who practised human sacrifice. Infanticide had an 
economic cause. But suttee cut to the very roots 
of social morality, and the society which practised 
it and gloried in it made itself an outcast from 
the civilized comity of nations. It is often made a 
reproach against the British that, after a century and 
a half of predominance in India, they have not 
advanced the people any further along the road of 
fitness for self-government. I am not, I think, likely 
to ignore or forget the mistakes and shortcomings 
of our administration. But India's primary need 
to-day is fair judgment from us to it and from 
it to us. And if we have written Indian history 
with unfairness, Indians have with equal unfairness 
put upon us the blame for many things for which 
they have been responsible. I have no doubt what- 


ever that such things as suttee kept back Indian 
political progress by many years ; until the rite was 
abolished, even a beginning in self-government was 

" To put the matter in a lower but a very practical light, 
we say that advancement of natives to Mgh posts of emolu- 
ment or responsibility was simply impossible while such 
relics of dark ages and dark superstitions were fostered or 
endured The most grotesque and horrible incongruities 
would arise had suttee kept pace with our avowed and 
earnest desire to see natives taking a larger share in the 
government of the country. Imagine a native gentleman 
dying who was a member of the Governor-General's Council 
for making laws, and the Viceroy, on sending a message of 
condolence to his family, being quietly told that his wives 
had all burnt themselves the day before ; or the native 
Justices of the Peace for the town of Calcutta stating their 
inability to attend a discussion on the waterworks of the 
metropolis because they wished to follow the widow of one 
of their number to her husband's pile at Chitpore or Garden 
Reach ; or a Bengalee member of the Civil Service, for such 
there may be, refusing to subscribe to the civil fund because 
he would, under the Shastras, be only survived by his widow 
for the space of twelve hours ! It was in one sense truly 
said that such practices were incompatible with the spread 
of education, but the sound rule, we submit, for our guidance 
would have been to put down violent crimes first and then 
educate and refine afterwards. The demoralization of the 
survivors entailed by the rite of suttee was palpably spreading, 
and was a worse feature than even the cruel tortures of the 
dying wife, which is saying a good deal." * 

But India paid an immeasurable price, in other 
than practical ways, for the practice of suttee. The 
rite aroused in foreigners a contempt, especially in 

> Calcutta Review, 1867, " Suttee/' 


Bengal, where the men were and always had been 
exempt from risk of death and maiming in battle, 
which is not yet eradicated. Its apologists and 
hymnists to-day are the large body of sentimental- 
ists who are unteachably inaccurate, Europeans and 
Americans incapable of any intellectual process higher 
than unthinking ecstasy in the presence of what they 
imperfectly understand and wholly misrepresent, 
Indians incapable of any statement that is not tilted 
by some nationalist bias. India has been damned 
by the mental slackness of its exponents ; we who 
love it are most of us people entitled to very little 
respect on intellectual grounds. 

It may seem unjust and illogical that the Moguls, 
who freely impaled and flayed alive, or nationals of 
Europe, whose countries had such ferocious penal 
codes and had known, scarcely a century before 
suttee began to shock the English conscience, orgies 
of witch-burning and religious persecution, should 
have felt as they did about suttee. But the difference 
seemed to them this the victims of their cruelties 
were tortured by a law which considered them 
offenders, whereas the victims of suttee were punished 
for no offence but the physical weakness which had 
placed them at man's mercy. The rite seemed to 
prove a depravity and arrogance such as no other 
human offence had brought to light. 

' ' Something may be urged in support of every kind of 
custom, show, or amusement of a national character, however 


barbarous and demoralizing in many respects. In gladia- 
torial exhibitions, the old Romans, who, amidst all their 
fine qualities, had no sentiments of chivalry or generosity 
to the vanquished, learnt to admire the skill of the exhibitors, 
as well as the calm determination with which they passed 
by the Chief Magistrate, saluting him as dying men. In 
the bull-fights of Spain the adroitness of the matador some- 
times half-drowns the pity felt for the mangled and dis- 
embowelled horses. Even at a prize-fight, gentlemen of 
taste and education have dwelt on the artistic position, the 
muscular, well-shaped, and healthy frame, and the exquisite 
skill in attack and defence manifested by the pugilists. Yet, 
in spite of skill and activity and heroic resolution, the almost 
universal consent of civilized nations now pronounces such 
spectacles to be barbarous and demoralizing. But in these 
cases the actors, anyhow, are men, strong and independent, 
and capable of judging for themselves. Suttees were made 
out of the weakest part of the creation. Illiterate women, 
preyed on by relatives, cowed by priests, morally if not 
physically drugged, were urged to continue to their husband 
after death that servile obedience to which they had been 
condemned in their lifetimes, or to encounter a state of dull 
and dreary widowhood to which death was almost preferable. 
Suttee appears to have sprung from, as well as to have 
perpetuated, some of the vilest feelings of our human nature. 
It began in selfishness, it was supported by falsehood, and 
it ended in cruelty such as might give support to fiends. 
No language is too strong for it. When we read the long 
record of human lives sacrificed to what was called our 
national good faith, the vacillating minutes, the elaborate 
reports, the indignant remonstrances which the subject 
excited, and the inactivity of a Government presided over 
at least by one able statesman, we can but sigh, as we read 
the blood-stained page, for one hour of either Bentinck or 
Dalhousie." * 

Contemporary accounts of Bengal suttees a century 
ago, and the cases that, for one irregularity or another, 

1 Calcutta Review, 1867, " Suttee/' 


reached the courts, show that the rite was a huge 
public tamdsM, 1 in which the lowest Mahommadans 
joined actively with the dregs of the Hindu populace. 


We have seen that we cannot claim the abolition 
of suttee as a triumph of " British justice " or an 
example of the righteous and fearless character of 
our administration. The garland belongs to one man 
almost alone, and no praise is too high for him. 

Another thing that has become clear is the under- 
lying motive of Dalhousie's annexations, some of them 
carried out against the strong disapproval of such 
men as Sir Henry Lawrence. His humanitarianism, 
reinforced and sharpened by his experience of the 
unwillingness of native states to set their houses 
in order in matters of elementary decency, was 
responsible for his anxiety to annex whenever possible. 
I believe that there was no " earth-hunger " behind 
his doctrine of " lapse " ; and while criticizing him we 
should remember the exasperating refusal of many 
states to abolish suttee and female infanticide. 

" A saying of his quoted by Hunter has, as that author 
observes, ' the ring of a great soul/ 

" * I circulate these papers/ he wrote hastily on one case 
in which he had successfully insisted on justice being done 
at the risk of a tumult ; ' they are an instance of the principle 
that we should do what is right without fear of consequences. 

* Show. 


To fear God and to have no other fear is a maxim of religion, 
but the truth of it and the wisdom of it are proved day by 
day in politics/ " * 

1829 TO 1857. 

We have further seen that the 1829 Regulation 
opened a period of intensive warfare against violent 
and cruel crime ; British officers fought against 
dacoity, suttee, human sacrifice, thuggee, female 
infanticide. It was not kid-glove work ; even the 
rites of the Aztecs were not more depraved and 
ferocious than those which marked the " meriah " 
human sacrifices of Orissa, and the officers who 
extirpated them were dealing with sub-human beings. 
Thuggee was stamped out by a ruthlessness that was 
unavoidable and well deserved. 

" During the years 1831-1837, 3,266 thugs were disposed of 
in one way or another, 412 out of that number being hanged 
and 483 admitted as approvers The approvers and their 
descendants were detained for many years in a special 
institution at Jubbulpore (Jabalpur)." * 

The work of these years was largely summary; it 
necessarily developed the summary outlook and 
method. The period was marked also by four hard- 
fought wars those with Sind, Gwalior, and the two 
Sikh wars as well as two outside India, with 
Afghanistan and Burma. The summary mind was 
working in the aggression which forced Afghanistan 
* Oxford History of India t 709. * Ibid., 668, 


and Sind to fight us, and in the annexations that 
made the period one of growing exasperation against 
the foreigner. The summary mind, when it is an 
individual dealing with unwilling and wild subjects, 
becomes the gamekeeper mind. These years, which 
saw province after province added to British India 
Sind, the cis-Sutlej lands, and the Jullunder Doab, 
Kashmir, Hazara, the Pan jab itself, Oudh saw the 
improvisation of a loose and mainly personal system 
of administration for the vast tracts and fierce frontier 
where Nicholson and his compeers won their reputa- 
tions and formed their characters. If we remember 
that the men who served in India during these years 
often felt that they were exterminating vermin, and 
that they were flung widely over newly conquered 
territory where their authority was almost entirely 
personal and their power enormous, the ruthlessness 
and spiritual arrogance with which our people con- 
fronted the Mutiny become explicable, and there is 
the less reason for the whitewashing of our text- 
books and their extraordinary moral judgments. The 
Pan jab administration, before and after, as well as 
during, the Mutiny, was terribly stern. These years 
of suppression of inhumanities and of conquest and 
subjugation, after the explosion of 1857 threw a 
wild storm-light over all our thinking, produced 
the hard, unattractive English life in India which 
our novelists, consciously and unconsciously, have so 
successfully made us realize. That life was perhaps 


the most cynical (and yet confidently righteous) and 
least humorous phase in all our history as a people. 

I am not justifying anything that happened; I 
am trying to explain ; and I do not believe that to 
explain is to justify. Between 1830 and 1880 a 
beneficial ruthlessness was busy, and a self-satisfaction 
and an isolation from the people of India reigned. 
If I would see the writing of Indian history a franker, 
less cautious thing, and salted with a magnanimous 
and less narrowly political philosophy, it is because 
this would go far towards winning the interest of my 
people, who are weary both of the querulous plaints 
of Indians and of the angry pompousness of our own 
satraps and apologists. I believe, too, that another 
long step towards winning interest will be taken if 
we can arrest some of the excessive attention that 
has been given to the men prominent in 1857 and 
later years and turn it towards the able and generous 
men who worked in India in the period immediately 
before the great annexations and the great rebellion 
towards Munro, Malcolm, Elphinstone, Tod. 


I had intended to try to examine this ; but the 
truth is, it has ceased to seem a puzzle to me. 
Obviously the mental state of the women who were 
sacrificed varied infinitely, as that of martyrs for 
religion or patriotism, The Rajput lady who died 


when a foe girdled in her city and her whole sex was 
swept away, or who ascended the pyre with her lord 
newly slain in battle, was in a mood that had no 
contact or resemblance with the mood of the cowed 
and unwilling slave-girl. Yet even Rajput queens 
ultimately refused to go to the pyre. 

Indians cherish with a rapture of exultation their 
many stories of satis who died calmly or with lofty 
ecstasy. Those who saw Dip Kunwar, " the last 
distinguished mil in Bikanir/' go to her death in 
1825 spoke of her radiant heroism as long as they 
lived. Yet, after all, even such cases as this are 
only examples of what the history of every country 
has shown that men and women, not only separately 
but in the mass, can be disciplined and trained to an 
extent to which no limit can be set. Soldiers, members 
of communities dedicated to destruction as some 
warrior tribes and sects have been in times of national 
despair slaves, the labouring classes during the long 
industrial depression now slowly lifting all these 
have been trained to accept without question a fate 
that to sober thought is horrible. It is but a few 
years since men of almost every nation in Europe 
were disciplined to the point that they would accept 
a command to go to inevitable death with resignation 
or even joy. Women especially have shown a power 
of passive acceptance of a drab and colourless plane 
of existence in which their personality was crushed 
out of even a claim for recognition, that may be to 


their credit I am by no means sure that it is but 
is certainly not to that of man. That large sections 
of Indian society trained their .women to look forward 
to the funeral pyre of their lord as the crown and 
glory of their lives is true. It is true also that to 
this day many Indian women cherish a sentimental 
worship of that mood, in which their menfolk 
encourage them, and that the writer who lays the 
facts in sunlight and thereby slays the ignoble and 
slavish folly that has given them so much satisfaction 
will receive only resentment. Nevertheless, the dis- 
cipline that made suttee possible was a discipline of 
slaves ; and the civilization that hounded widows, in 
the first moments of grief or surprise, into a declaration 
that they would die, and then forbade any withdrawal, 
was a barbarous one. 


Not as an established custom at any rate, not 
where the nationalist movement connected with the 
name of Mr. Gandhi has been strong. For that 
movement has been a cleansing one, since it has 
brought with it the deepest and most radical criticism 
to which Indians have ever submitted themselves ; 
it has loosened a great many things, besides the 
British hold on India. 

But there would undoubtedly be instances of suttee, 
especially where Brahman or Rajput influence is strong ; 


and in some districts the rite might become not 
uncommon. The disquieting thing is, suttee has 
troubled the Hindu conscience hardly at all. Even a 
saint such as Kabir mentions it with detachment, as 
an illustration of his theme, the extent to which 
love, whether of a husband or of God, can move 
those it possesses. 

Yet, as European history has shown, it is not fair 
to expect even saints to be in all ethical questions in 
advance of their age. What we are entitled to 
consider strange is that, while some Indian writers 
whom the West has deeply influenced for example, 
Romesh Dutt and Rajendralal Mitra have con- 
demned suttee uncompromisingly, it is common 
indeed, usual for Hindu writers to glorify it to-day, 
and there is a widespread belief that it proved the 
superior chastity of their women. Suttee and nation- 
alism are the two subjects on which the irony-loving 
Bengali is nearly always heavily and solemnly serious. 
The courage of the satis appeals to something in even 
the most " advanced " Hindu that is absent from 
the normal-thinking person in the West, and that 
courage is the only thing that Indians have fixed 
their eyes on. It is at last worth while trying to 
draw attention to other aspects of the rite. The 
last few years have brought to the younger generation 
of Indians, especially those studying in the West, 
such a feeling of weakness and humiliation that they 
are anxious to be right in their thinking, and are 


ceasing to be sensitive lest a confession that they 
were mistaken in some matter lower their dignity 
with foreigners: The free man can face the opinion 
of others, for their condemnation is nothing to him 
unless his own conscience go along with it. 

Indians are with reason resentful of much that is 
said on missionary platforms in Europe and America 
and in missionary journals. Missionary apologetics 
have stressed the weak points in Hinduism, and have 
brought to the comparison only the strength of 
Christianity, ignoring such matters as its stormy 
and poetic but chaotic and mistaken eschatology. 
India has a right to point out to her critics the 
materialism of Western civilization and Europe's 
record of aggression outside herself. The weakest 
thing in Hinduism is its ethical record, which is a 
shocikng one. There is no single instance of a cruelty 
or an injustice which the religion or the people have 
shaken off from within. Reform has always come by 
forcible interposition from without, and without that 
forcible interposition would never have come. If the 
positive programme of Mr. Gandhi is followed, in 
such matters as the removal of untouchability, this 
record of Hinduism will be for the first time broken. 

The refusal to glorify the past where it was vile 
is the only course consistent with self-respect. It is 
also the only way to win the respect of the world 
and, I believe, the help of English men and women 
in the struggle for Indian self-determination. For it 


is one thing to recognize the abstract justice of a 
cause, and quite another to move to its assistance. 
Greece and Italy have been trumpet-calls to civilized 
men everywhere ; India is usually only a Ducdame, 
and will be until more sense is talked by us who love 
her. It is possible for a civilization to spoil its women 
by adulation and by attaching importance to their 
silliest and most trivial opinions. But Indian civiliza- 
tion has spoiled its men, a fact written large on 
Indian literature, making much of its finest poetry 
and fiction unreadable outside India without con- 
tempt mingling with admiration. I am sure that in 
India generally, and in certain parts especially, the 
men have for millenniums accepted and commanded 
from the women more than they could afford to take. 
As a result, the thinking and imagination of peoples 
second to none intellectually have been largely sterile. 
I believe the time is come for a much more radical 
sifting of Hindu tradition by Indians themselves ; 
and they will be wise if they adjust their attitude to 
the past by one consideration only that of truth, 
and if while doing this they forget that they are a 
dependent people and exposed to a galling criticism 
from outside. The criticism that matters is then- 
own; and on this question, of woman's position in 
society and her duties towards man, that criticism 
has not been searching or brave enough. I have 
tried to make it as impossible for an educated Indian 
to defend suttee as it is now imt>ossible for an educated 


Englishman to defend execution by torture ; and 
when the defence is abandoned, the contempt that 
the defending inspires will pass away. What is more 
important, once the light of honest thinking is let in 
on this sacrifice of woman, other ideas that have 
sheltered behind this idol will be dragged out to 
question. The nonsense about the wonderful purity 
and spirituality of the Hindu marriage ideal cannot 
survive 'examination ; still less can the sex-obsession 
of the civilization and the social system which, in 
making one sex the unpitied servant to the other, 
drains and destroys both. If the matter is brought 
to the political test, which not unnaturally is what 
appeals most to educated Indians to-day, then we 
may say this : they have friends who gladly acknow- 
ledge their right to complete self-determination, yet 
cannot see what use freedom can be to them until 
the whole of their sex-thinking has been ruthlessly 
overhauled and the plain conclusions of reason and 
justice put in practice. Suttee has gone, but its 
background remains. Children are married and 
ravished, their bodies maimed, their minds mutilated. 
If a generation could arise with the physical and 
mental vigour that in nearly every other land is a 
normal possession, much that is now thought admirable 
in Hindu literature and religion would be seen as a 
revolting nightmare. There are communities free 
from man-worship and sex-obsession, such as the 
Brahmo Samaj and kindred Churches ; but even 


these are dishonoured, and their humiliating sense of 
impotence deepened, by the inability of the vast 
majority of their fellow-countrymen to see anything 
amiss in Hindu civilization or anything that needs 
to be done in India except political agitation. If 
there is any "gulf" between East and West, it is 
where sex and the family are in question, and woman's 
function and her relation to man. India cherishes 
some exquisite stories of wedded love. But if even 
the tales of Sita and Savitri and Damayanti, or to 
bring the matter on to the plane of history those of 
Dip Kunwar and the gallant ladies who burned for 
Prithviraj and Sardar Shan Singh, represent the whole 
or the best of what they can conceive of the comrade- 
ship of man and woman, then there is a gulf between 
East and West indeed. 


B.C. 317. " Finally, having taken leave of those of the 
household, she was set upon the pyre by her own brother, 
and was regarded with wonder by the crowd that had run 
together to the spectacle, and heroically ended her life, the 
whole force with their arms thrice marching round the pyre 
before it was kindled. But she, laying herself beside her 
husband, and even at the violence of the flame giving utter- 
ance to no unbecoming cry, stirred pity indeed in others of 
the spectators, and in some excess of eulogy ; not but what 
there were some of the Greeks present who reprobated such 
rites as barbarous and cruel." l (In the Panjab.) 

Circa A.D. 1520. " They hold that the wife who weeps 
beyond measure has no desire to go in search of her husband ; 
and the mourning finished, their relations speak to them, 
advising them to burn themselves and not to dishonour 
their generation. After that, it is said, they place the dead 
man on a bed with a canopy of branches and covered with 
flowers, and they put the woman on the back of a worthless 
horse, and she goes after them with many jewels on her and 
covered with roses; she carries a mirror in her hand and 
in the other a branch of flowers, and (she goes accompanied 
by) many kinds of music, and his relations (go with her) 
with much pleasure, A man goes also playing on a small 
drum, and he sings songs to her telling her that she is going 
to join her husband, and she answers also in singing that so 
she will do. As soon as she arrives at the place where they 

i Diodorns Siculus, Biblioth., xix, 33-4. Quoted in Hobson* 
Jobson, article " Suttee." 



are always burned, she waits with the musicians till her 
husband is burned." * (In the Vijayanagar Empire.) 

" About the year 1796 the following most shocking and 
atrocious murder, under the name of suhu-murunu, was 
perpetrated at Mujil-poori, about a day's journey south 
from Calcutta. Bancharamu, a bramhun of the above place, 
dying, his wife went to be burnt with the body. All the 
previous ceremonies were performed ; she was fastened on 
the pile, and the fire was kindled ; but the night was dark 
and rainy. When the fire began to scorch this poor woman, 
she contrived to disentangle herself from the dead body and, 
creeping from under the pile, hid herself among some brush- 
wood. In a little time it was discovered that there was 
only one body on the pile. The relations immediately took 
the alarm and searched for the poor wretch ; the son soon 
dragged her forth, and insisted that she should throw herself 
on the pile again, or drown or hang herself. She pleaded 
for her life at the hands of her own son, and declared that 
she could not embrace so horrid a death but she pleaded 
in vain. The son urged that he should lose his caste, and 
therefore he would die, or she should. Unable to persuade 
her to hang or drown herself, the son and the others present 
then tied her hands and feet and threw her on the funeral 
pile, where she quickly perished/' * 

1813. " The following circumstance took place at Gondul- 
para, about twenty miles north of Calcutta, on the i8th of 
March, 1813, and was communicated to the author by Captain 
Kemp, an eye-witness. The description is nearly in his own 
words : ' On Thursday last, at nine in the * morning, 
Vishwunat'hu, one of our best workmen, who had been sick 
but a short time, was brought down to the river-side to 
expire. He was placed, as is customary, on the bank, and 
a consultation held respecting the time he would die ; the 

1 Chronicle of Fernao Nuniz, published in Seweli's Forgotten 
Empire. As Longhuxst remarks (Hampi Ruins, 41), Nuniz's 
extraordinarily vivid account, of which part has been quoted 
earlier, must be based on personal experience. 

* William Ward, A View of the History, Literature and Mythology 
of the Hindoos (1822), iii. 316-17. 


astrologer predicted that his dissolution was near at hand. 
The sick man was then immersed up to the middle in the 
river, and there kept for some time ; but death not being 
so near as was predicted, he was again placed on the beach, 
extended at full length, and exposed to a hot sun, where he 
continued the whole of the day, excepting at those intervals 
when it was supposed he was dying, when he was again 
immersed in the sacred stream I visited him in the evening ; 
he was sensible, but had not the power of utterance. He, 
however, was able to make signs with his hand that he did 
not wish to drink the river water, which they kept almost 
continually pouring into his mouth by means of a small 
shell. He remained in this situation during the night. In 
the morning the immersions commenced, and were continued 
at intervals till about five in the evening, when he expired, 
or was literally murdered. His wife, a young woman about 
sixteen years of age, hearing of his death, came to the 
desperate resolution of being buried alive with the corpse. 
She was ' accompanied by her friends down to the beach 
where the body lay, where a small branch of the mango tree 
was presented to her, which (as I understood) was a setting 
a seal to her determination, from which, after having 
accepted the branch, she could not retreat. I went to her, 
and questioned her with respect to the horrid act she was 
about to perform, whether it was voluntary or from per- 
suasion. Nothing of the latter appeared ; it was entirely 
her own desire. . . . The mother declared that it was 
her daughter's choice, who added that she was determined 
to "go the road her husband had gone " There was not 
the least appearance of regret observable in the mother's 
countenance or conduct. . . . At 8pm the corpse, accom- 
panied by this self-devoted victim, was conveyed to a 
place a little below our grounds, where I repaired, to behold 
the perpetration of a crime which I could scarcely believe 
possible to be committed by any human being. The corpse 
was laid on the earth by the river till a circular grave of 
about fifteen feet in circumference and five or six feet deep 
was prepared, and was then (after some formulas had been 
read) placed at the bottom of the grave in a sitting posture, 
with the face to the north, the nearest relation applying a 

148 - SUTTEE 

widow now came forward, and having circumambulated the 
grave seven times, calling out " Huree Bui ! Huree Bui ! " 
in which she was joined by the surrounding crowd, descended 
into it. I then approached within a foot of the grave, to 
observe if any reluctance appeared in her countenance or 
sorrow in that of her relations. In hers no alteration was 
perceptible; in theirs was the appearance of exultation. 
She placed herself in a sitting posture, with her face to the 
back of her husband, embracing the corpse with her left 
arm and reclining her head on his shoulders ; the other 
hand she placed over her own head, with her forefinger 
erect, which she moved in a circular direction. The earth 
was then deliberately put round them, two men being in 
the grave for the purpose of stamping it round the living 
and the dead, which they did as a gardener does around a 
plant newly transplanted, till the earth rose to a level with 
the surface, or two or three feet above the heads of the 
entombed. As her head was covered some time before the 
finger of the right hand, I had an opportunity of observing 
whether any regret was manifested ; but the finger moved 
round in the same manner as at first, till the earth closed the 
scene. Not a parting tear was observed to be shed by any 
of her relations till the crowd began to disperse, when the usual 
lamentations and howling commenced, without sorrow/ *' * 

June 9, 1826. " About five o'clock in the evening of the 
gth instant I received a note from a gentleman that a suttee 
was about to take place near his house. On hastening to 
the spot, I found the preparations considerably advanced, 
and a large concourse of spectators assembled, and continu- 
ally increasing, till they amounted to six or eight thousand. 
On my left stood a horrid pile. It was an oblong bed of dry 
cow-dung cakes about ten feet long and seven wide and 
three high. At each end of it a rough stake about eight 
feet in length was driven into the ground, and at about a 
foot from the top of these supporters was fastened, by cords, 
a frame of the same dimensions as the bed below, and 
forming a fiat canopy to the couch of death. This frame 
must have been of considerable weight, as it was covered 

1 Ward, iii* 324-26. 


with very dry small faggots, which the officiating Brahmuns 
continued to throw upon it till they rose two feet above 
the framework On the right sat the poor deluded widow, 
who was to be the victim of this heart-rending display of 
Hindoo purity and gentleness. She was attended by a 
dozen or more Brahmuns ; her mother, sister, and son, an 
interesting boy about three years of age, and other relatives 
were also with her. Her own infant, not twelve months 
old, was craftily kept from her by the Brahmuns. She had 
already performed a number of preparatory ceremonies, one 
of which was washing herself m a strong decoction of saffron, 
which is supposed to have a purifying effect. One effect it 
certainly produced it imparted to her a horrid ghastlrness ; 
her eyes indicated a degree of melancholy wildness ; a forced 
and unnatural smile now and then played on her countenance ; 
and, indeed, everything about her person and her conduct 
indicated that narcotics had been administered in no small 
quantities She was clad in her best apparel, which had 
been tinted by the same decoction with which her body 
alas ! so soon to be fuel for the flames had been washed. 
Her jewels for the last time were employed to ornament 
her person ; in her fine long black hair at the back of her 
head, as in a bag of network, were enclosed so large a 
quantity of small white odoriferous flowers as almost to 
prevent her head from being turned ; and about two yards 
from where the unfortunate woman sat, immediately in her 
view, was the corpse of her husband, tied by a cord to a 
kind of hurdle made of bamboos. Her attention, however, 
so far as I could observe, was never, even for a moment, 
directed towards it. To divert her thoughts from dwelling 
on the scene around her, and in which she was shortly to 
become so conspicuous an object, and doubtless to prevent 
her resolution from failing her at the approaching crisis, 
the Brahmuns continued plying her with betel-leaf, plantains, 
cocoa-nuts, etc , etc , to distribute among her fnends as 
presents ; and the manner in which these presents were 
received sufficiently evinced the almost divine regard with 
which the giver was contemplated. Besides these different 
kinds of fruits, several small brass pans filled with parched 
rice, sandal-wood powder, etc., were before her. From these 


individuals by pinches of their contents ; and the receivers 
of these presents appeared to consider them as peculiarly 
precious. When, however, an interval, though but momen- 
tary, occurred amidst these employments, her countenance 
assumed an expression that indicated indescribable appre- 
hension and horror. 

" Close by me stood the Fouzdar, a native officer, who, 
besides regulating the police, is the chief military officer 
at the station. Under his authority and personal super- 
intendence this inhuman business was carrying on. So 
heartily did he engage in the murderous work that he gave 
the poor widow twenty pagodas between six and seven 
pounds sterling to confirm her resolution to be burned ! 

" All my hopes of prevailing on the widow to retract her 
rash vow and openly to declare her determination not to 
burn were precluded, as she was a Gentoo woman, of whose 
language I had no knowledge. Happily, however, Mr. Camp- 
bell, of the London Missionary Society, was present, and with 
the hope that she would understand him he advanced to 
address her in the Carnatica language. His attempt in this 
respect was successful, for, notwithstanding the prohibition 
of the Fouzdar, he succeeded in getting near enough to her 
for her to hear his address ; and from the attention she paid 
to what he said and the fact of her answering it was evident 
that she understood him. The effect of Mr. Campbell's 
solemn and feeling address was counteracted by the influence 
and exhortations of the Brahmuns, who surrounded their 
victim like so many beasts of prey, fearful of its escaping 
their grasp ; and he was obliged to retire, without having 
effected anything more than to exhibit the striking contrast 
which exists between the spirit of the Gospel of Our Blessed 
Lord and that of what has often been termed 'mild and 
amicable * Hindooism. 

" By this time the pile was completed, and a quantity of 
straw was now spread on the top of the bed of cow-dung 
cakes. An increase of activity was soon visible among the 
men whose ' feet are so swift to shed blood/ Muntrams 
(prayers or incantations) having been repeated over the pile 
and the woman, and everything being in readiness, the 
hurdle to which the corpse of the husband had* been fastened 
was now raised by six of the officiating Brahmuns ; the end 


of a cord about two yards long, attached at the other end 
to the head of the bier, was taken by the widow, and the 
whole moved slowly towards the pile. The corpse was then 
laid on the right side upon the straw, with which it was 
covered, and four men furnished with sharp swords, one 
stationed at each corner, now drew them from their scab- 
bards. The trembling, ghastly offering to the Moloch of 
Hindooism then began her seven circuits round the fatal 
pile, and finally halted opposite to her husband's corpse, 
at the left side of it, where she was evidently greatly agitated. 
Here five or six Brahmuns began to talk to her with much 
vehemence, till, in a paroxysm of desperation, assisted by 
the Brahmuns, the hopeless widow ascended the bed of 
destruction. Her mother and her sister, unable any longer 
to sustain the extremity of their anguish, went up to the 
side of the pile and entreated that the horrid purpose might 
be abandoned; but the woman, fearing the encounter and 
the strength of her resolution, without uttering a word or 
even casting a parting glance at her supplicating parent 
and sister, threw herself down on the pile and clasped the 
half-putrid corpse in her arms. Straw in abundance was 
then heaped on the dead and the living ; gums, resins and 
other inflammable materials were thrown upon the straw 
which covered the bodies by one party of the Brahmuns, 
while muntrams were repeated at their heads by the other. 
Six or eight pieces of kindled cow-dung cakes were introduced 
among the straw at different parts of the pile, ghee and 
inflammable materials were applied, and the whole blazed 
in as many places. The men with swords at each corner 
then hacked the cords which supported the flat canopy of 
faggots it fell and covered the lifeless corpse and the living 
woman ! ! ! 

" The flames now began to ascend, and comparative silence 
was restored. The active agents in this work of destruction 
were fearlessly and explicitly charged with murder and 
warned of the future awful account which they would have 
to render. The Fouzdar, in a haughty, irritated tone of 
voice, inquired, ' To whom shall I have to give an account ? ' 
He was informed, ' To Jehovah, the true and living God.* 
To the charge of murdering the widow and hurrying her 
oul to perdition, the chief Brahmun, in a frenzy of 


siastic triumph, exclaimed, accompanying what he said with 
the most extravagant gesticulations : ' She is now in heaven 
she is already in glory f ' At this moment a piercing 
sound caught my ear ; I listened a few seconds, and, not- 
withstanding the noise of the multitude, heard the shrieks 
of misery which issued from the burning pile ' ! In an agony 
of f eehng we directed the attention of the Brahmuns to this, 
and while doing so, again, still louder and more piercing 
than before, the burning woman rent the air with her 
shrieks ' ' Several of the Brahmuns called out to the half- 
consumed, still conscious and imploring widow to comfort 
her. What the real effect on the mind of this wretched 
victim to Hindoo infatuation would be is easily conceived. 
They then sang in chorus a Sanscrita hymn declaring that 
her soul would be wafted to heaven on the zephyrs of their 
holy praise. The pile was now enveloped in flames, and so 
intense was the heat that, as by one consent, the Brahmuns 
and the spectators retreated several paces ; and the hymn 
ended, but not the shrieks and groans of the agonized 
sufferer : they still pierced our ears and almost rent our 
hearts ! Effectually to overpower them, the Brahmuns in 
a body began calling aloud, ' Rayana ! * Rayana ' Ray ana ' * 
(one of the thousand names of Vishnu). Scarcely conscious 
of what I did, in the midst of these vain repetitions I left 
this scene of fiendish barbarity." 3 (At Bangalore, Mysore.) 

" On Tuesday, November 24, 1829, I had an application 
from the heads of the most respectable and most extensive 
family of Brahmans in this district to suffer this old woman 
to burn herself with the remains of her husband, Ummed 
Singh Upadhya, who had that morning died upon the banks 
of the Nerbudda. I threatened to enforce my order and 
punish severely any man who assisted, and placed a police 
guard for the purpose of seeing that no one did so She 
remained sitting by the edge of the water without eating 
or drinking The next day the body of her husband was 
burned to ashes in a small pit of about eight feet square 

1 Narayana. 

* Missionary Notices, No xxviii, June 1827. The letter is 
prefaced, " Mr. England dates his letter June 12, 1826," 


and three or four feet deep, before several thousand spectators 
who had assembled to see the suttee. All strangers dispersed 
before evening, as there seemed to be no prospect of my 
yielding to the urgent solicitations of her family. . . . She 
remained sitting on a bare rock in the bed of the Nerbudda, 
refusing every kind of sustenance and exposed to the intense 
heat of the sun by day and the severe cold of the night, 
with only a thin sheet thrown over her shoulders. On 
Thursday, to cut off all hope of her being moved from her 
purpose, she put on the dhaja, or coarse red turban, and broke 
her bracelets in pieces, by which she became dead in law 
and for ever excluded from caste Should she choose to live 
after this, she could never return to her family. ... I 
became satisfied that she would starve herself to death if 
not allowed to burn, by which the family would be disgraced, 
her miseries prolonged, and I myself rendered liable to be 
charged with a wanton abuse of authority, for no prohibition 
of the kind I had issued has as yet received the formal 
sanction of the Government. 1 

" On Saturday, the 28th, in the morning, I rode out ten 
miles to the spot, and found the poor old widow sitting 
with the dhaja round her head, a brass plate before her with 
undressed rice and flowers, and a cocoa-nut in each hand. 
She talked very collectedly, telling me that ' she had deter- 
mined to mix her ashes with those of her departed husband, 
and should patiently wait my permission to do so, assured 
that God would enable her to sustain life till that was given, 
though she dared not eat or drink/ Looking at the sun, 
then rising before her over a long and beautiful reach of 
the Nerbudda river, she said calmly : ' My soul has been for 
five days with my husband's near that sun ; nothing but my 
earthly frame is left ; and this I know you will in time 
suffer to be mixed with the ashes of his in yonder pit, because 
it is not in your nature or usage wantonly to prolong the 
miseries of a poor old woman/ 

1 Sleeman, on taking civil charge of the Jabalpur district, in 
March 1828, issued a proclamation forbidding anyone from aiding 
or assisting in suttee, saying that if a woman burned with her 
husband anyone who provided wood for his pyre would be liable 
to punishment. 


" 'Indeed, it is not. My object and duty is to save and 
preserve them ; and I am come to dissuade you from this 
idle purpose, to urge you to live, and to keep your family 
from the disgrace of being thought your murderers.' 

'"I am not afraid of their ever being so thought; they 
have all, like good children, done everything in their power 
to induce me to live among them, and, if I had done so, I 
know they would have loved and honoured me. But my 
duties to them have now ended. I commit them all to your 
care, and I go to attend my husband, Ummed Singh Upadhya, 
with whose ashes on the funeral pile mine have been already 
three times mixed.' * 

" This was the first time in her long life that she had 
ever pronounced the name of her husband, for in India no 
woman, high or low, ever pronounces the name of her 
husband she would consider it disrespectful towards him to 
do so. . , . When the old lady named her husband, as she 
did with strong emphasis and in a very deliberate manner, 
everyone present was satisfied that she had resolved to die. 
* I have/ she continued, ' tasted largely of the bounty of 
Government, having been maintained by it with all my 
large family in ease and comfort upon our rent-free lands, 
and I feel assured that my children will not be suffered to 
want ; but with them I have nothing more to do, our inter- 
course and communion here end. My soul (prari) is with 
Ummed Singh Upadhya, and my ashes must here mix 
with his/ 

" Again looking to the sun : ' I see them together/ said 
she, with a tone and countenance that affected me a good 
deal, ' under the bridal canopy ! ' alluding to the cere- 
monies of marriage ; and I am satisfied that she at that 
moment really believed that she saw her own spirit and 
that of her husband under the bridal canopy in paradise. 

** I tried to work upon her pride and her fears, I told 
her that it was probable that the rent-free lands by which 
her family had been so long supported might be resumed by 
the Government, as a mark of its displeasure against the 
children for not dissuading tier from the sacrifice ; that the 
temples over her ancestors upon the bank might be levelled, 

* It was a common belief of a widow that she had died as a 
$&$ previously with her husband. 


with the ground, in order to prevent their operating to 
induce others to make similar sacrifices ; and lastly, that 
not one single brick or stone should ever mark the place 
where she died if she persisted in her resolution. But, if 
she consented to live, a splendid habitation should be built 
for her among these temples, a handsome provision assigned 
for her support out of these rent-free lands, her children 
should come daily to visit her, and I should frequently do 
the same. She smiled, but held out her arm and said . ' My 
pulse has long ceased to beat, my spirit has departed, and 
I have nothing left but a little earth that I wish to mix 
with the ashes of my husband. I shall suffer nothing in 
burning, and, if you wish proof, order some fire, and you 
shall see this arm consumed without giving me any pain/ 
I did not attempt to feel her pulse, but some of my people 
did, and declared that it had ceased to be perceptible. At 
this time every native present believed that she was incapable 
of suffering pain, and her end confirmed them in their 

" Satisfied myself that it would be unavailing to attempt 
to save her life, I sent for all the principal members of the 
family, and consented that she should be suffered to burn 
herself if they would enter into engagements that no other 
member of their family should ever do the same. This they 
all agreed to, and the papers having been drawn out in due 
form about midday, I sent down notice to the old lady, 
who seemed extremely pleased and thankful. The cere- 
monies of bathing were gone through before three, while 
the wood and other combustible materials for a strong fixe 
were collected and put into the pit. After bathing, she 
called for a pan (betel leaf) and ate it ; then rose up and, 
with one arm on the shoulder of her eldest son and the 
other on that of her nephew, approached the fire. I had 
sentries placed all round, and no other person was allowed 
to approach within five paces. As she rose up fire was set 
to the pile, and it was instantly in a blaze. The distance 
was about one hundred and fifty yards. She came on with 
a calm and cheerful countenance, stopped once, and, casting 
her eyes upward, said : ' Why have they kept me five days 
from thee, my husband ? * On coming to the sentries her 


supporters stopped , she walked once round the pit, paused 
a moment, and, while muttering a prayer, threw some 
flowers into the fire. She then walked up deliberately and 
steadily to the brink, stepped into the centre of the flame, 
sat down, and, leaning back in the midst as if reposing upon 
a couch, was consumed without uttering a shriek or betraying 
one sign of agony. 

" A few instruments of music had been provided, and 
they played as usual as she approached the fire, not, as is 
commonly supposed, in order to drown screams, but to 
prevent the last words of the victim from being heard, as 
these are supposed to be prophetic and might become sources 
of pain or strife to the living. It was not expected that 
I should yield, and but few people had assembled to witness 
the sacrifice, so that there was little or nothing in the 
circumstances immediately around to stimulate her to any 
extraordinary exertions ; and I am persuaded that it was 
the desire of again being united to her husband in the next 
world and the entire confidence that she would be so if she 
now burned herself that alone sustained her. From the 
morning he died (Tuesday) till Wednesday evening she ate 
pans, or betel leaves, but nothing else ; and from Wednesday 
evening she ceased eating them. She drank no water from 
Tuesday. She went into the fire with the same cloth about 
her that she had worn in the bed of the river ; but it was 
made wet from a persuasion that even the shadow of any 
impure thing falling upon her from going to the pile con- 
taminates the woman unless counteracted by the sheet 
moistened in the holy stream. 

" I must do the family the justice to say that they all 
exerted themselves to dissuade the widow from her pur- 
pose. . . .*' r 

1839. " Her countenance had assumed a sickly and 
ghastly appearance, which was partly owing to internal 
agitation and partly, so I was informed, to the effects of 
opium and bhang and other narcotics, with which she had 
been previously drugged in order to render her less awake 

1 Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections 
of an Indian Official (1893 edition, Constable), i. 23-28. 


to the misery of her situation. She was not, however, so 
insensible to what was passing as to be inattentive to two 
persons in particular amongst several others who were 
stooping before her and were evidently imploring her 
blessing. . . . 

" In about half an hour the preparations were completed. 
She was regularly thatched in upon the top of the pile, 
whilst her husband's body yet lay outside. It was finally 
lifted up to her ; the head as usual, and which is the most 
interesting part of the ceremony, was received upon her 
lap. . . . 

" The woman became a sail when she crossed the threshold 
of her door, and would most probably (so I was told) have 
been put to death by her relations had she afterwards 
retreated. So long as she remained in the house she had 
the power of refusal." x (In Mandi.) 

November 5, 1845. " I have just returned from a suttee; 
after twenty years' residence in India this is the first I have 
seen. A terrible sight, but less so than I expected. The 
woman was cool and collected, and evidently under no sort 
of coercion. The corpse was that of a Goorkha commandant ; 
it was laid on a small platform, raised on six or eight stakes 
driven into an island, eight or nine feet square, in the bed 
of the Bagmutty. The platform had a double bottom; 
between the two was laid wood, resin, and ghee ; the corner 
stakes met above, forming a rude canopy. About a hundred 
spectators, chiefly beggars and old women, were collected 
to view the spectacle. Ten or twelve Sepoys and as many 
Brahmins were assisting around the pile. When Dr. Christie 
and I arrived the woman was inside a small (open) rattee 
close to the river, apparently dressing ; we could just see 
her tinsel head-dress. In about five minutes she came out 
mounted on the back of a man. At the edge of the rattee 
her carrier stopped, and she, dipping her finger in a platter, 
took red dye stuff and made teekas on the foreheads of some 
of the assistants. He then carried her to the pile, and 
round it four or five times, during which time she took rice 
and spices from a platter and threw it to the people around, 
who held out their hands, and many their sheets, to catch 
* G. T. Vigne, Travels in Kashmir, Ladak f Iskardo, 82-3. 


it; others begged for alms and her ornaments. Two or 
three tomtoms were all the time being beat After finishing 
the circuits, she dismounted, stooped, and washed her hands 
in the river, and then uncovered her husband's feet, placed 
her head to them, and kissed them. She then ascended the 
pile, made more distributions of rice, etc , and some pice, 
and commenced disrobing herself, taking off her tiara and 
upper coloured silks, and gave them to persons around. 
She then sat down and took off: her armlets and bracelets 
and gave them. All this took at least a quarter of an hour, 
during which time she was as composed as at a festival. 
She then lay down close behind the corpse, her head close 
to her husband's. The platform was so narrow that she 
had to be squeezed between the corpse and the stakes on 
her side. Her hair throughout was loose, hanging over her 
shoulder. She was a Goorkha, about thirty-five or forty 
years old. When laid down, the coloured sheet over her 
husband was drawn so as to cover her too, and then three 
strong bamboos were placed across the pair, and each held 
at either end by a man so as to prevent her rising. They 
did not press on her, but would have effectually kept her 
down had she struggled. Over these bamboos some loose 
faggots were thrown, and then two lighted lamp-wicks were 
placed on the head of the corpse ; and a minute after a torch 
was applied under the platform close to the heads, when a 
strong flame broke out. The crowd shouted and the tom- 
toms beat more loudly so as to have drowned any cry that 
may have been uttered by the victim ; but whatever were 
her pains, they could not have lasted a minute. The fire 
was fed with ghee and sulphur, and a strong flame kept up 
so as in five minutes to have quite consumed all the head 
of the platform. I have seen the sad spectacle, and shall 
not willingly witness another. The old hags around me 
grinned with delight ; ours were the only sad countenances. 
I saw two or three women near the victim who were prol> 
ably relations, but such could not be known from their 
actions ; all was utter unconcern." (In Nepal. Sir Henry 
Lawrence's Diary.) I 

1 Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes and Herman Menvale, Life 
of Sir Henrv Lawrence (1872^, ii. 


Abolition of Suttee, 78. See 

Bentinck, Lord William 
Abul Fad, 8 

Acts, Reference to Book of, 80 
Admetus, 7 ff 

Afghanistan, War with, 135 ff. 
Agunkhdki (name for Sail), 74 
Ahalya Bai, 59 
Ahmadnagar, 85 ff , 109 
Ain-i-Akban, 8 

Aitchison, C. U , 83, 86 ff , 103 
Ajit Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur, 


Ajmer, in 

Akbar, 8, 46 ff , 50, 57 

Albuquerque, 57 

Alcestis, 7ff. 

Alexander the Great, 19, 28, 


Allahabad, 39, iiSff 
Allah-ud-din, 34 
a, 118 
r, uoff. 
Das, 57 
An'en-Hetep II, 25 
,o3tnencan Indians, 25 
Amherst, Lord, 70, 75, 77 
Among Indian Rajahs and Ryots, 


Angria's Kolaba, 87 ff., 121 
Annals and Antiquities of Rajas- 

than, 10, 20, 35, 46, 67, 

1 06 
Anugamana. See Anumarana, 

15 ff , 66, 71 

Army, Suttee in Indian, 77 
Aryans, 16 ff , 24 
Asiatic Journal, 41, 103 
Assam, 83 
Astrakhan, 38 
Atharva-Veda, 18 
Attari, 100 
Auckland, Lord, 105 
Aztecs, n^ 

Balder, 24 

Balfour. See Cyclopedia of 

Bah, 41, 127 

Bandelkhand, 62 

Bangalore, 152 

Bankura, 31 

Bareilly, 71 

Baroda, 82, 88 ff , 118 

Bathie, Francis, 79 ff . 

Begun, 117 

Benares, 43, 71 

Bengal and Bengalis, 29, 31, 36, 
40, 50 ff., 54, 68 ff, 72 ff., 
77 ff , 107, iiSff , 131 ff 

Bentinck, Lord William Caven- 
dish-, 58, 75 ff , 82, 109, 120 ff , 


Bhadurwah, 88 

Bharatpur (Bhurtpur), 62, 115 
Bhils, 85 
Bhim Singh, 104 
Bhinai Ra]a, in 
Bhopal, 115 
Bhuj, 55 
Bihar, 26, 120 See Gaya, 


Bikamr, 30, 45, 47, no, 138, 144 
Bilaspur, 103 
Bombay Courier, 85 ff . 
Bombay Gazette, 121 
Bombay, Governor of, 59, 63 
Bombay Presidency, 78, 82, 

84 ff ., 87 ff . 
Boulger, D C., 60 
Brahman Influence, I7ff., 29, 

37, 54- 139 
Brahman Women Forbidden to 

Burn, 16, 21 ff , 66 
Brahmos and Brahmo Samaj, 

130, 143 
Brhaddevata, 21 
Brooks, M. H., 60 
Bruce, P. H., 38 



Briinhild, 24 

Budh Singh, 67 

Bundi (Boondi), 67, 112 

Burdwan, 121 

Burial Alive, 39, 66, 146 ff . 

Burma, War with, 135 

Burnell, A. C. See Hobson- 

Bushby, 105, 107 

Calcutta, 60, 71 fi., 122, 131, 

146 ff . 
Calcutta Review, 48, 60 fi., 65 ff ., 

69, 72, 131 fi. 

Campbell (missionary), 150 ff. 
Carey, William, 60 E., 78 
Cawnpore, 122 
Central India, 24, 26, 30, 67, 


Chddar Ddlna, 94 
Chamba, 103 
Chandranagar, 59 
Chandrikd, So, 119 
Chliatna, 31 
Chhattrts, 32, 34 
Chibotu, 1 20 

Chilianwala, Battle of, 47, 90 
China, Suttee in, 25 
Chinsura, 59 

Chitor, 10, 33 ff ., 37, 53, 74 
Chota Udaipur, 88 
Christie, Dr., 157 
Clerk (British Representative at 

Ranjit Singh's Court), 94 
Clouded Mirror, The (play), 73 
Colebrooke, H. J., 49 ft. 
Coomaraswamy, Ananda, 7, 28, 

78, 119 
Court and Camp of Runjeet 

Singh, 93 
Court of Directors of East India 

Company, 70 
Crooke, W., 35, 39, 127 
Cunningham, J. D., 105 
Curse, A Sail's, 49, 98, in, 124 
Cyclopaedia of India, 19, 39, 53 

Dacca, 71 

Dalhousie, Earl of, 83, 109 ff., 

Dance of Siva, The, 7, 28, 78 

Danish Administration at Sex 
ampur, 59 

Datia, 118 

Death of CEnone, The, 25 

Deb, Raja Radhakanta, 23 

Delhi, 57 ., 67, 104 

Deogarh Barria, 88 

Devi Kund, in 

Dhyan Singjh, 93 ff. 

Dinanath Singh, 98 

Diodorus Siculus, 44, 145 

Dip Kunwar, in, 138, 144 

Dodraj, 123 &. 

Drew, Frederic, 96 E. 

Drowning, Suttee by, 39 

Drugs, Use of, in Suttee, 50, 62, 
113. 156 

Dubois, Abb6, 21, 46, 68 

Dungarpur, no 

Dutch Administration at Chin- 
sura, 59 

Duties of a Faithful Hindu 
Widow, The, 49 fi. 

Dutt, Romeshchandra, 140 

Earl Amherst, 38 

Eden, The Hon. Emily, 93 E. 

Eden, W. F., 113 

Edwardes, Sir Herbert, 158 

Egypt, Suttee in Ancient, 25 

Eliot, Sir Charles, 19, 22, 


Elpninstone, J. R., 61 
Elphinstone, Mountstuart, 68, 

Encyclopedia Britannica, no, 


England (missionary), 152 
Erskine (British official), 85 flc. 
Euripides the Rationalist, 8 
Evadne, 25 

Evans, Richardson, 38 
Ewer (police officer), 47, 54 

Farakhabad, 122 
Faridkot, 103 
Ferozeshah, Battle of, 47 
Fijians, Suttee among, 25 
Forbes, A. K., 31 -ff., 40 



orgotten Empire, A t 40 ff , 43, 

145 ff 
;er, Sir Andrew, 122 

aekwar. 505 Baroda 

/andhi, M. K , 139, 141 

rarrett, H. L O , 105 
aruda (demi-god), 33 

"raya, 43, 61, 120, 122 

.nazipur, 66 
lobe, 125 

lossary of the Tribes and Castes 
of the Punjab and North- West 
Frontier Province, A, 38 

Soa, Prohibition of Suttee at, 57 

"iondulpara, 146 

rranth (sacred book of Sikhs), 

'nffin, Sir Lepel, 53, 94, 96 ff 

Trimm, 24 

-ujarat, 31 ff , 38 ff , 55 500 
Baroda, Kathiawar 

juna, 118 
Gwahor, 118, 135 

Haldighat, Battle of, go 

Hampi Ruins, 33, 35, 146 

Hanuman (derm-god), 33 

Hardinge, Lord, 101, 108 

Castings, Lord, 77 

"rTazara, 136 

xlelen, 34 

Herodotus, 20 f. 

Hervey, General Charles, 30, 32, 

fanduism and Buddhism, 19, 

22, 128 

Hindu Pantheon, 68 
Hira Singh, 95, 97 
^story of the Panjab, 95 
History of the Sikhs (by J D 

Cunningham), 105 
History of the Sikhs (by W L. 

M*Gregor), 96 
Hobson-Jobson, 15, 36, 145 
Honigberger, J M , 91 
Hooghly, 63 

Idar, 84 ff., 109 

Imperial Gazetteer of India, 84 &., 

India's Cries to British 

Humanity, 44, 54 ff , 63 S 
India Gazette, 80 
India Under Victoria, in 
Indian Antiquary, 31 
Institutes of AKbar, 8 

Jabalpur, 135, 153 
Janrabad, Sidi of, 88 
Jahangir, 57 
Jaipur, 38, 67, 108, 117 
Jaisalmer, 37 
Jammu, 96 fi. 
Jauhar, 34, 37, 138 
Java, 62, 127 

Jawahir Singh, 91, 97 ff , 105 
Jawan Singh, 104 
Jerome, St , 28 
Jhmd, 100, 103 
Jindan, Ram, 98 
Jodhpur, 35, 57, 67, 106, 108 
Jones, Sir William, 15 
Judicial Pedantry, 65 
Jummoo and Kashmir Terri- 
tories, The, 97 
Junagarh, Nawab of, 87 
Jung Bahadur, Sir, 127 
Jungle Mahals, 74 

Kabir (poet), 140 

Kali (goddess), 19, 24, 74 

Kaltaki, 122 

Kanara, 69 

Kashmir, 115, 136 See Jammu 

Kathaioi, The, 20 

Kathiawar, 82, 87 fL 

Kaumudi, 80, 120 

Kemp, Captain, 146 

Khalsa (Sikh Army), 92, 7^, 


Kharak Singh, 91 ff., 94 ff. 
Kipling, Rudyard, 58, 76, 112 
Kotah, 1 08 
Krishna (god), 18 
Krishna (river), 68 
Kriss (Malay dagger), 41, 127 
Kulimsm, 37 
Kulu, 31 

Kundan, Rani, 92 
Kuri, 118 
Kurukshetra, Battle of, 18 



Lahore, 93 # , 96 ff . 

Z,0stf Suttee, The, 112 

Latif, Syad Muhammad, 95 

Lawrence, Lord, 99 

Lawrence, Sir Henry, 99, 102, 

134, 157 ff. 

Lee- Warner, Sir W , 101 
Letters of Marque, 58 
Life of Sir Henry Lawrence, 99, 

157 ft. 
Lombok, 127 

Longhurst, A H., 33, 35, 146 
Lord Hardmge, 97, 101 

Lotus, The (slave-girl burnt 
with Ranjit Singh), 93 

Lovett, Sir Verney, 129 

Luard, Colonel C E , 10, 117 ff 

Ludlow, Major, 108 

Lunawara, 88 

Lushington, C M , 53 

Luxor, 25 

Lyall, Sir Alfred, 42 

Macaulay, Lord, 129 
M'Gregor, W L , 96 
Madhunkand, 120 
Madras, 75 
Madura, 29, 36, 125 
Mahabharata, 18 ff. 
Mahdsati, 34, 113 
Mahommadans, 28, 36, 48, 57 ff., 

71, 77, 134 
Malabar, 29, 69 
Malcolm, Sir John, 67, 137 
Malet, Sir C , 15 
Ma-Sati, 37 

Mandi, 31, 101 ff , 156 ff 
Maning, F. E., 25 
Man Singh, 106 
Manu, 19 
Man-worship m Hinduism, 45 ff., 


Maons, Suttee among, 25 
Marathas, 29 ff , 58, 68 ff. 
Marco Polo, 28 
Marwar. See Jodhpur 
Men-slaves, Suttee of, 20, 24, 38 

8 4 

Meviah Sacrifices, 89, 135 
Merivale, Herman, 158 

VEetcalfe, Lord, 58, 78 
Mfewar. See Udaipur 
VTidnapur, 74 
Minute on Suttee, Lord Ben- 

tinck's, 77 
Vhra Bai, Rani, 74 
Missionanes, 141 
Missionary Notices, 152 
Mhtra, Rajendralal, 140 
Moguls, 46, 57, 91, 132 
Moor, Edward, 68 
Mother, Suttee of, 37 
Moti Singh, in 
Mujilpuri, 146 
Muller, Max, 16 ff 
Munro, Sir Thomas, 137 
Murshidabad, 71 
Mutilation, 83, 103 
Mutiny, Indian, 68, 106, 113 ff, 

136 ff 
Muttra (Mathura), 120 

Nabha, 100, 103 

Nadiya, 74 

Nanna, 24 

Nao Nihal Singh, 91 ff , 95 

Narbada (river), 82, 152 ff. 

Nationalism and Suttee, 140 

Native States of India, The, 101 

Nepal, 83, 100, IIT, 127, 157 ff. 

New Zealand, Suttee in, 25 

Nicholson, John, 136 

Nihal Singh, 96 

Nimbapuram, 35 

Nuniz, Ferfiao, 40 ff., 145 ff 

Oakley, H., 63 

Ocean of Story , The, 24, 126, 128 
CEnone, 25 
Old New Zealand, 25 
Old Testament, 45 
Onssa, 26, 40, 89 ff . 
Osborne, The Hon. W,, 93 
Oudh, 136 

Oxford History of India, 20 ff ., 
24, 28, 35, 52, 59, 91, 96, 99, 

IO2, 134 ff. 

Padmani, 34 
Paduka, 30, 104 ff. 



Pandu, 1 8 

Panjab, 19, 28 ff ., 37, 145 See 

Sikhs, Lahore, etc. 
Paraffin, Use of, in Suttee, 126 
Parliamentary Papers, 65 
Parmandal, 97 
Paryati (river), 118 
Patiala, 100 
Patna, 65, 71, 120, 122 
Peggs, J , 44, 54, 63 ff , 76 
Penzer, N M , 24 ff , 126, 128 
Peshwa Prohibits Suttee, 59 
Petition against Prohibition of 

Suttee, 79 ff 
Phulkian States, 100 
Poona, 29, 68 
Pope, G U , 18, 68 
Portuguese, 57, 88 
Pratap Singh, 87 
Pnthviraj, 144 
Privy Council, 77 ff. 
Propertius, 28 
Punjab in Peace and War, The, 


Punjaub, The, 92 
Pur anas, ig 
Purdah, 58 
Psychology of Satis, 137 ff. 

Rajaram, 29 
Rajpipla, 88 
Rajputana Gazetteer, Mewar 

Agency, 104, 115 
Rajputs and Rajasthan, 24, 26, 

29, 32, 35 ff 3 8 * 42, 4 6 fi - 5 2 . 
58, 67 ff., 76, 90, 103 ft , 
I37ff S0e Tod, Udaipur, 
Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikanir, 
Alwar, etc. 

Ramayana, 19 

Rambles and Recollections of an 
Indian Official, 75 ff., 152 ff. 

Ram Dayal, Case of, 118 ff. 

Ramnagar, 96 
, Ranjit Singh, 53, 62, 91 ff , 96 & 

Ranjit Singh, 53, 94, 96 ff. 

Ras Mala, 31 f , 40 

Ratnagm, 89, 120 

Rawlinson, G,, 21 

Regulation Prohibiting Suttee, 
78 ff., 82, 122 

Regulations Governing Practice 
of Suttee, 1 6, 62 ff 

Reigning Family of Lahore, His- 
tory of, 95 

Remington, A , 89 

Report on the Political Adminis- 
tration of Rayputana, 113 

Rewa, 117 

Rewa Kauta, 88 ff , 109 

Rig- Veda, i6ff. 

Ritchie, Anne Thackeray, 38 

Rites of the Twice-Born, 126 

Rose, H A , 38 

Roy, Rammohan, 7, 17, 40, 48, 
78, 80 ff. 

Sahagamana. See Sahamarana, 

15 See also Suttee 
Saktism, 73 ff 

Sangam (river- junction), 43, 73 
Sanskrit Literature, 129 See 

Rig-VedaMahabharata, Rama- 
yana, etc 
Sardar Singh, 105 
Sarup Singh, 112, 115 
Satara, 87 ff 
Satu, 38 
Savantvadi, 59 
Savitri, 144 

Scandinavia, Suttee in, 24 
Scythian Influence in Suttee, 

20 ff , 24 
Sealy, C. T., 63 
Serampur, 59 See Carey 
Sesodias, 112 

Seven Against Thebes, The, 25 
Sewell, R,, 40 ff,, 43, 146 
Shahabad, 60 
Shahu, 29 
Sham Singh (Rajput thakur), 

Shan (Sham) Singh, 91, 99 ff., 


Shere Singh, 95 
Sikhs, 47, 82, 90 ff,, 106, 108, 

135 See Panjab 
Simla, 100 
Simpson, W. O., 68 



Sinclair-Stevenson, Mrs., 126 
Sind, War with, 135 ff. 
Sita, 144 
Sivaji, 29 

Slaves, Burning of, 20, 24, 37 ff., 
84 fi, 92 ff , io6ff., Ii2ff., 


Slavs, Suttee among, 24 
Sleeman, Colonel, 75 ff., 152 ff. 
Smith, C , 64 
Smith, Vincent A , 76. See 

Oxford History of India 
Smyth, S. Carauchael, 95 
Sobraon, Battle of, 91, 99, 102 
Sonth, 88 
Sraddha (Hindu post-funeral 

ceremony), 122 
Stembach, H , 91 ff , 95 
Strabo, 28, 44 
Subathu, 100 
Suchet Singh, 91, 96 ff . 
Sudder Court, 61 ff , 70, 72, 120 
Suket, 103 

Sutlej (river), 100, 102, 136 
Suttee, Instances of 

at Ahmadnagar, 85 ff., 109 

at Ajmer, in 

at Aluwa, 118 

at Angria's Kolaba, 87 ff , 121 

at Astrakhan, 38 

at Attan, 100 

at Bangalore, 148 ff. 

at Begun, 117 

at Burdwan, 121 

at Calcutta, 146 ff. 

at Cawnpore, 122 

at Chibotu, 120 

at Datia, 118 

at Dungarpur, no 

at Farakhabad, 122 

at Gondulpara, 146 

at Gunaj, 118 

at Jammu, 96 

at Jarauh, 123 ff. 

at Kaltaki, 122 

at Lahore, 91 ff 

at Madhunkand, 120 

at Mujilpun, 146 

at Parmandal, 97 

at Raranagar, 96 

Suttee, Instances of, continued: 

at Ratnagrri, 89, 120 

at Rewa, 117 

at Subathu, 100 

at Tinneveh, 125 

at Udaipur, 112 ff 

at Utarna, 117 
Suttee Stones, 30 ff , 75, 102, 104 

Tanjore, 59, 69, 125 

Tantras, 19 

Tawney, C H , 24 

Taxila, 19 

Teixeira, 36 

Telugu Country, 39, 41 See 

Tennyson, 25 

Thakurs, Rajput, no, 115, ii7ff 
Things Indian, 39, 127 
Thorburn, S. S , 91 
Thrace, Suttee in, 21 
Three Eastern Plays, 9, 31, 73 
Thuggee, 135 
Tmneveli, 125 
Tippera, 39, 66 
Tirhur, 120 
Tiroj, 1 02 
Tod, Colonel, 137. See Annals 

and Antiquities of Rajasthan 
Tonga, Suttee in, 25 
Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, 

Iskardo, 31, 91, 101 ff , 156 ff 
Treaties, Engagements and Sun- 

nuds, 83, 86 ff , 103- 
Tnchinopoh, 53 
Trotter, Colonel, iiofL 

Udaipur, 34, 67, 103 ff , iioff,, 


United Provinces, 68, 118 
" Untouchability/' 141 
Utarna, 117 

Vaishnavism, 73 ff. 

Vasudeva, 18 

Vermilion Hill, 31 

Verrall, A. W., 8 

View of the History, Literature 

and Mythology of the Hindoos, 

A, 60 ff., 146 ff. 



Vigne, A. T., 31, 91, 101 ff., 

156 ff. 
Vrjayanagar, 29, 33, 35 ff , 40 ff , 

145 ff 

Vindhya Mountains, 26 
Vishnu, 33 
Vishnupur, 31, 73 
Volsunga Saga, 24 

Waghela Chief , 118 
Walker, F Deaville, 78 S 
Wankamr, 88 
Ward, William, 60 ff , 146 fi. 

Wauchope (Bntish official), 62 
Weavers, Burying Alive of 

Widows of, 39, 66 
Weitbrecht, J. J., 121 
Wellesley, Marquess of, 61, 76 
Widow-Burning, 105 
Widowhood, Miseries of, 48 ff... 

Wilson, Professor H. H , 16 

Yule, Sir H See Hobson- 

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